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Meeting Minutes Return to Committee
Meeting Minutes
Office of the Onondaga County Legislature
Court House, Room 407 * 401 Montgomery Street * Syracuse, New York 13202
(315) 435-2070 Fax: (315) 435-8434

DEBORAH L. MATURO
Clerk
DAVID H. KNAPP
Chairman
KATHERINE FRENCH
Deputy Clerk

 

 

HUMAN SERVICES COMMITTEE – MARCH 12, 2019

THOMAS C. BUCKEL, JR., CHAIRMAN

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Dr. Chase, Mr. Bush, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Rowley

ALSO ATTENDING:  Chairman Knapp, Mrs. Ervin; see attached list

 

Chairman Buckel called the meeting to order at 10:02 a.m.  A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mr. Jordan, to waive the reading of the proceedings from the previous committee.  MOTION CARRIED.  A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mr. Jordan, to approve the minutes of the previous committee meeting.  MOTION CARRIED. 

 

1.     ADULT AND LONG TERM CARE SERVICES:  

        a.     A Local Law Eliminating the Burial Fee for Veterans, Veterans’ Spouses and Veterans’ Dependents Eligible for Burial within the Onondaga County Veterans Cemetery, and Amending Local Law No. 10-2013 (Sponsored by Mr. Knapp)

 

Chairman Knapp:

  • Legal department will navigate the specific rules and regulations; talked about this concept for several years as an additional benefit for a veteran’s service – waive plot purchase fee
  • Veteran’s themselves receive federal reimbursement, difficult to determine, reimbursement amount depends on when and where they served and the type of service, i.e. active duty, reserves, deployed, not deployed  
  • The fund has built up over the years and can only be used for very specific things; have been told the fund will last a long time
  • Wide support from the Veterans’ community; one of the few counties in the state to have their own Veteran’s Cemetery - a little unique, treading on new areas for some things

In answer to Chairman Buckel, Chairman Knapp confirmed that there will be no distinction among the place served or category of veterans.  He does not think we have ever had that kind of distinction and it wouldn’t start now.  Dr. Chase asked if there would be a distinction for honorably discharged.  Ms. Mancilla responded that it has always been for honorably discharged only; general discharge falls under honorable. 

 

Mr. Morgan:

  • Currently, $500 is charged for pre-burial plots, the funds sit in a holding account until the person passes and is buried, then $450 goes to support operations of the Parks Department, which maintains the cemetery, and $50 goes into a perpetual care account to support various improvements; current balance is roughly $900,000
  • There is an intent to reimburse those already paid; roughly $80,000 to $90,000 per year is received in the Parks budget as a result of operating the cemetery; money is recognized as people pass - not all recognized when paid
  • Long term would need to fill $80,000 to $90,000 hole in the Parks budget; believe paid perpetual care funds will also be reimbursed, capital cost down the road may have to be borne by the County, much depends on how many people apply for refunds and that process is being developed

Chairman Knapp asked if there was any idea as to the number of people that would apply.  Mr. Morgan responded that there is roughly $900,000 in the fund and some people paid $250.  It all depends on the outreach effort and the response received.  From a financial perspective, we will continue to operate the fund as we always have until no funds remain to pull into the Park’s department.  Chairman Knapp asked if these same founds would be available for the Parks Department for the next several years.  Mr. Morgan responded that where the fund ends up on a year to year basis will determine if the funds will be available.  Going into the 2020 budget we will factor something in, in terms of reduced revenue, for this action. 

 

In answer to Chairman Buckel, Ms. Mancilla responded that between 100 and 200 burials are performed each year.  It is important to note that reimbursements would be for those not yet interred.  Chairman Buckel asked if the number was expected to remain consistent under this program.  Mr. Morgan responded that historically it has remained close to the same.  Chairman Knapp said that it could go up a little bit without a fee, though as mentioned there is reimbursement from the federal government for the actual veteran.  In answer to Dr. Chase, Ms. Stanczyk responded that the spouse and eligible dependents are also included.  As it stands now there would be no fee across the board. 

 

Dr. Chase asked if there was any idea as to the number of veterans not buried in the Veteran’s Cemetery.  Chairman Knapp responded that the vast majority are not.  Dr. Chase asked if this would then increase the number.  Chairman Knapp responded that the volume could go up a little.  Mr. Morgan stated he doesn’t foresee a change. 

 

Chairman Buckel asked the market price in other cases.  Mr. Bush responded that this has been a very generous program offered by the county to our veterans, to begin with.  There is a potential for two burials for $500, which would include two opening charges and the purchases of graves, which could easily run $3,000.  The County deserves credit for having this as a nice option for its veterans.  That tends to get lost in the translation when we talk about this.  Chairman Knapp agreed.  Mr. Bush said that the way it was originally set up was a wonderful tribute to our veterans at a very minimal cost in comparison to nongovernment cemeteries.  

 

Mr. Jordan stated that currently, veterans are fronting the funds and then being reimbursed by the VA.  Ms. Mancilla responded that in order for the VA to reimburse the veteran's family they have to either have died at the VA hospital, been in receipt of money from the VA hospital for compensation or pension, or died while on active duty.  The amount ranges anywhere from $300 to $2,000 dollars, i.e. indigent with no family $300, service connected and died from service disability $2,000.  There is a succession on whom the funds can be paid to, next of kin, all the way down to the funeral home.  Mr. Jordan asked if there was an ability to assign those rights over to the County for reimbursements.  Ms. Stanczyk responded that the Law department determined that this was not possible - cannot be assigned to a municipality or government.  Ms. Mancilla added that we can only receive these monies when we are first payers for indigent veterans – not to sign over, only if there were no family.  In answer to Chairman Knapp, Ms. Mancilla confirmed that we have done this before.

 

Mr. Bush said that it would be reasonable to predict a bump in usage if a person has a no-cost option.  People will see that as a very viable option from a financial standpoint.  In addition, the cemetery is beautiful and well maintained, and the Veterans Service Agency helps with the paperwork for the veteran.

 

Chairman Knapp said that from a capacity standpoint there is a finite amount of room and asked if anyone knows roughly what we have.  Ms. Stanczyk responded that this is one of their biggest concerns.  Using this concept there is a greater chance of running out of space before running out of perpetual care funds.  National cemeteries have moved to cremation only and there could be a movement to do that in the future because of limited space.  It is in the capital project to expand in the next few years and we are doing some work at the actual facility now;    not a lot of room available.  Mr. Bush stated that they are expanding now.  Ms. Stanczyk responded that not much beyond the expansion is owned by the County.  Chairman Knapp stated that there is surrounding land but it is not owned by the County.  Mr. Bush noted that from what he saw it was vacant.  Ms. Stanczyk responded that some of the land is very rock heavy. 

 

Chairman Buckel commended the sponsor.

 

Mr. Bush asked how this compares to the national cemetery and what they offer in the way of burials.  Ms. Mancilla responded that we mirror them in every way, other than the fee.  There is no fee at a national cemetery.  Mr. Bush said that the nearest one is in Romulus, but it is not a national cemetery.  Chairman Knapp agreed, noting that they are trying to get the designation for that. 

 

Mr. Jordan asked what makes the dependent eligible.  Ms. Mancilla responded, “Any adult dependent child.”

 

A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mr. Bush, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

2.     Discussion - Lead Ordinance

 

Chairman Buckel:

  • He has presented the committee with two local laws that he takes no pride of authorship on, he brings them forward based on his experience representing poverty populations, working within our community and struggling with the issue of lead and its dozens and dozens of attempts to deal with that problem
  • Lead remains a problem not just as a matter of Public Health, it affects us directly in the expenses we incur serving families and children that have become disabled or have other behavioral problems and issues that directly relate to lead poisoning; lack of effectiveness of all the iterations, i.e. HUD funding, city effort, special grants
  • The proposed legislation came from another jurisdiction (referencing a local law pertaining to lead-based paint elimination, which has not been filed with the Clerk); before offering this to the executive branch for comment he wants to open it up to this committee for discussion and input
  • He sent out the local laws several weeks ago, wants to see if this committee has an interest and if legislation can percolate from the floor, as it used to, as opposed to coming from on high

Dr. Chase stated that this has been going on for many years and it seems like we are spinning our wheels.  We are going to have present-day problems because of the neurological issues caused by exposure for not only young children but previously exposed who are now older.  It is not an issue that has not been paid attention to in this community, yet it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  It is so frustrating and we cannot take down every building containing lead.  It is an overwhelming situation to take care and she does not understand why we aren’t farther ahead with this. 

 

Mr. Bush commended Chairman Buckel for bringing this forward.  For him, it is almost immoral to put children into this type of situation.  At some point, we have to take a stand and say that this is a priority for our community and the people that live here – must determine how to implement making places safe for young people.  He knows the city has wrestled with this but, at some point, the county has to address this also.  Chairman Buckel responded that the intent is to provide a countywide function for certification requirements and Health department qualifications and putting the burden on those renting property to acquire that certification.

 

Chairman Knapp mirrored Mr. Bush’s comments adding that a big part of the problem is education and suggested inviting Mr. Skahen from Community Development to next month’s meeting as he could help educate us on the money, how it flows, the guidelines, and what the funds can and cannot be used for.  Also, if we hold landlords feet to the fire can they access this so that we are not creating a bigger problem than we are solving.  The county program has been very successful overall and the fact that they continue to receive awards each time the grants come up is a nice testament to their work.  We are also working hand and glove with the city now, much closer than in the past.  Chairman Buckel reiterated that this is an attempt to try and create a ground-up proposal.  We have different philosophical representatives here.  Some are very hesitant about using the power of government and making sure that it is done only in the rarest of cases for compelling needs.  Others are more willing to marshal the power for a specific end.  He wants to take ideas from this committee, see if they want to structure more teeth from the county perspective and craft this from the ground floor.  Perhaps having a hearing where people can respond as opposed to the usual – here’s my legislation, we either vote on it or not.  He hopes to draw input on the concept from this committee and then expand and begin to draw input from all possible sources.

 

Mr. Jordan state that we have had a lead program for a very long time and asked if there was any idea how many homes still have lead in them.  Chairman Buckel responded that there are two ways of looking at it.  The presumption of every home or facility built before a certain time had lead paint in it, which is a huge number.  To determine what has been remediated is difficult.  Another way of looking at this is the current data on the number of instances of lead poisoning.  He agrees this is important data to have and will ask the Health Department to provide the information at the next meeting.

 

Dr. Chase agreed that Mr. Skahen should be invited to present what has been done and our resources.  Several activist organizations have focused on this issue and we could reach out to hear what they have found.  There are code rules in the city but tenants don’t want to take the risk of reporting and being thrown out.  This is well worth our time and effort to look into.

Chairman Buckel invited the committee to comment on specific wording; doesn’t have to be now, can follow up after the meeting.  The next meeting will include more input and data.

 

3.     Discussion – Source Payment Discrimination

 

Chairman Buckel:

  • This law (referencing a local law pertaining to fair housing, which has not been filed with the Clerk) relates to the law above if there is a more stringent countywide enforcement inspection process some of the rotten housing could shut down but there is a continuing need for housing throughout the community
  • This law is based upon data that shows the concentration of poverty in one area, particularly the segregation of poverty by race in this community is among the worst in the country, discrimination is implicit as well as overt, i.e. landlord won’t accept housing voucher or veteran’s benefits; used as a cover to discriminate by race
  • This law was recently passed in Erie County, copied and modified with the help of our county attorney for use here; don’t want to drop and vote, wants to explore the concept of freedom to contract versus the need to protect members of our community from discrimination and to expand housing opportunities so that we aren’t concentrating our poor, especially poor by race or color, in certain areas

Mr. Rowley stated that he was curious about how this law interplays with federal and state laws, and city ordinances.  He asked if this was new territory, reinventing the wheel or another layer.  Chairman Buckel responded that it was another layer.  Laws that deal with discrimination are very explicate in barring discrimination in housing rental by race.  His experience is antidotal so he does not want to rely on it but what he saw and what he thinks the data has shown is that there is overt or implicit discrimination.  Looking at the source of payment gives landlords a mechanism to subtlety discriminate; HUD vouchers are a classic case.

  • The city passed a similar ordinance but it then perpetuates the concentration of poor in one area, especially poor by race, i.e. tenants feel other areas may discriminate so they don’t look outside of the city; Erie County had the same experience
  • Want to expand countywide to provide a sense of fairness, the source of payment cannot be used as a shield to hide the real motives
  • Willing to bring in input from others, see if we can percolate something from the ground up; data may show it is not necessary for Onondaga County

Mr. Rowley said that he would love to see the data and act upon it.  Dr. Chase said that as a county if our goal is to really work on poverty it cannot just be in the city.  There is poverty throughout the county but it is so concentrated in the city that when it is talked about people only think of the city. 

 

Dr. Chase said that she would love to see more community input on this.  Chairman Buckel responded that they will get both data and community input.  Chairman Knapp suggested that Ann Rooney be involved to provide some metrics and background.  

 

Mr. Bush stated that available housing options come into play as far as where people live.  Chairman Buckel responded that transportation is a huge part of it.  Dr. Chase agreed, adding that we need to really look at transportation.  Mr. Bush responded that it was another issue.  Dr. Chase said that it is a big issue and will become even bigger as the I-81 area is redesigned.

 

A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mr. Rowley, to adjourn at 10:42 a.m.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Respectfully submitted,

3.12.19_HS_1

KATHERINE M. FRENCH, Deputy Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

 

3.12.19_HS_2

 

 

 

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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION COMMITTEE MINUTES - MARCH 13, 2019

CASEY E. JORDAN, CHAIRMAN

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mrs. Tassone, Mrs. Abbott-Kenan, Dr. Chase,*Mr. Bottrill

ALSO ATTENDING:  Chairman Knapp; see attached list

 

Chairman Jordan called the meeting to order at 9:02 a.m.  A motion was made by Mrs. Tassone, seconded by Dr. Chase, to waive the reading of the proceedings from the previous committee.  MOTION CARRIED.  A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mrs. Tassone, to approve the minutes of the previous committee meeting.  MOTION CARRIED. 

 

1.     ONONDAGA COUNTY RESOURCE RECOVERY AGENCY:

        a.     Confirming Appointment to the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (Robert S. DeMore) (Sponsored by Mr. Knapp)

 

Chairman Knapp:

  • Working hard to fill vacant positions since becoming chairman; worked with Mr. DeMore to form the Southern Onondaga Trash System comprised of 4 towns - Pompey, Lafayette, Tully and Fabius, a big success, able to bid all for 4 towns as one
  • Mr. DeMore will be a great addition; Dereth Glance, Executive Director of OCRRA is familiar with Mr. DeMore and excited to have him on board

In answer to Chairman Jordan, Dr. Chase stated that she was not present when Mr. DeMore worked for the County.  Mrs. Tassone said that she was and he will be a good addition.  Chairman Jordan stated that he will be a great addition. 

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Tassone, seconded by Dr. Chase, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

2.     WATER ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION:  Tom Rhoads, P.E., Commissioner;

        a.     Authorizing the Execution of Agreements with the City of Syracuse for Incorporation of Green Infrastructure within Specific Road Reconstruction Projects ($761,439)

 

Mr. Rhoads:

  • Advised the committee Adam Woodburn was with him today; WEP is going through a transition, may see more of Mr. Woodburn at future meetings, he is involved with the engineering and construction aspects of some of the continuing work, especially green infrastructure that relates to CSO projects
  • Seeking approval for IMA’s with the City of Syracuse, which will allow the city to build stormwater retention trenches for WEP while doing their street reconstruction; average capture cost has been $.21 cents per gallon for street reconstruction projects with the city 

*Mr. Bottrill arrived at the meeting.

  • Green infrastructure projects done on our own typically cost $.70 cents plus per gallon, classic gray infrastructure has been north of $1.00 per gallon of capture, sewer separation in 022 and 045 cost about $3.00 per gallon; the most cost-effective manner to abate combined sewer overflows is street reconstruction done in partnership with the city
  • Partner with the city as part of their capital plan; this work will abate combined sewer flows in 2 areas that overflow more than 4 to 6 times per year, part our federal and state goals is to get combined sewer overflows below 4 to 6 times per year 
  • Authorized budgets will pay for these projects – Harbor Brook ACJ budget for Grand Avenue and the sewer separation budget for Wolf Street; authorized the use of sewer separation funds for green infrastructure a few years ago, not asking for additional funds or resources

Mrs. Tassone said that $761,439 was coming out of the two budgets and asked what this covers.  Mr. Rhoads responded that the city will be reimbursed up to, not to exceed the cost of $.21 cents per gallon for installing infiltration trenches filled with stone and most likely underground.  Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked if WEP would provide oversight or the plan.  Mr. Rhoads responded that WEP provides the plan.  Mrs. Abbott-Kenan said that it is like contracting for the work.  Chairman Jordan clarified for the new members that we have had a number of instances where we received heavy rainfall.  Essentially because we did not have separate stormwater and sanitary sewer systems in the City of Syracuse raw sewage ended up going into Onondaga Lake and we got sued by the federal government.  We negotiated a resolution of that, the ACJ, which requires us to do certain work.  My understanding is that this is part of the work required in connection with the amended consent judgment.  Instead of doing the work ourselves at a much higher cost the city will do this work while doing their work and we will reimburse their cost of doing this.  The work and funding have already been approved but now we will be doing it for less money because we are doing it in this fashion.  Mr. Rhoads confirmed this was correct.

 

Dr. Chase questioned what WEP was doing in the Burnet Avenue area.  Mr. Rhoads responded that there are 387 of them and he did not know.  He then went on to describe various possibilities. 

  • WEP is negotiating with the state, EPA and ASLF to transition our program so we don’t have to abate combined sewer overflows that go off frequently but will be abated by I-81, the program is to be a little smarter, opportunistic, working with the city and state will save money
  • Will be a long term control program, will take quite a while but will save sewer ratepayers a lot in the Combined Sewer Abatement Program

A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mr. Bottrill, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 a.m.                

 

Respectfully submitted,

3.14.19_EP_1

KATHERINE M. FRENCH, Deputy Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

 

 

3.14.19_EP_2

 

 

 

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COUNTY FACILITIES COMMITTEE MINUTES – MARCH 13, 2019

JUDITH A. TASSONE, CHAIR

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Holmquist, Ms. Cody, Mr. McBride, Mrs. Ervin

ALSO ATTENDING:  Mr. Bush; See attached list

 

Chair Tassone called the meeting to order at 10:34 a.m.  A motion was made by Ms. Cody, seconded by Mrs. Ervin to waive the reading of the minutes of the previous committee meeting; MOTION CARRIEDA motion was made by Mr. McBride, seconded by Ms. Cody to approve the minutes of the previous committee meeting; MOTION CARRIED.

 

1.     FACILITIES MANAGEMENT:  Archie Wixson, Commissioner

        a.     INFORMATIONAL:  BOND RESOLUTION:  A Resolution Authorizing the Construction of Improvements at Oncenter in and for the County of Onondaga, New York, at a Maximum Estimated Cost of $1,500,000, and Authorizing the Issuance of $1,500,000 Bonds of said County to Pay Costs Thereof ($1,500,000)

  • Periodic bonds for capital improvements for Oncenter and event centers; shared in CIP and Legislature accepted
  • Formality to ask to authorize issuance of bonds; will buy bonds and pay over 2 year period; $1.5 mil bonding request
  • Intent – relative improvements to Oncenter including lighting, flooring and mechanical
  • Keep up with market value of event centers; if not protecting asset, then not competitive
  • By not doing continuous improvements and budgeting, have to do big asks; does not help anyone

Mr. Wixson responded to Chair Tassone that they did the expansion of the ice at the War Memorial two years ago to be compliant with AHL standards.  It was six feet short previously.

 

Ms. Ervin said she had a conversation with a woman who stated there were not enough handicap stalls in the ladies room, and the toilets were not high enough.  Mr. Wixson replied that they did improvements last fall, and the toilet facilities are current to ADA standards.  If someone has a unique need, they welcome the request.  Mr. Wixson said they are trying to make sure that those with special needs are comfortable, but if they do not know the unique needs, then the fallback is the federal standard.  Mrs. Ervin said she would contact her, then reach out to Mr. Wixson. 

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Ervin, seconded by Ms. Cody, to adjourn the meeting.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

The meeting was adjourned at 10:38 a.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

3.13.19_CF_2

JAMIE McNAMARA, Assistant Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

3.13.19_CF_1

 

 

 

* * *

 

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE MINUTES – MARCH 13, 2019

CHRISTOPHER J. RYAN, CHAIRMAN

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Bottrill, Mr. McBride, Mr. Bush, Mr. Rowley

ALSO ATTENDING:  Chairman Knapp, Mrs. Ervin; also see attached list

 

Chairman Ryan called the meeting to order at 12:01 p.mA motion was made by Mr. Bush, seconded by Mr. Rowley to waive the reading of the minutes of the previous committee meeting; MOTION CARRIEDA motion was made by Mr. McBride, seconded by Mr. Bush to approve the minutes of the previous committee meeting; MOTION CARRIED.

 

1.     EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS:  William Bleyle, Commissioner

        a.     Memorializing the New York State Legislature to Enact Assembly Bill No. A.4763, in Relation to Communication Service Surcharges Under County Law Within Onondaga County, and Requesting and Concurring in the Preparation of a Home Rule Request

  • Spoke with Chairman Ryan about adding senate bill S.4294 (to the resolution) sponsored by Senator Rachel May
  • Built radio system in 2009/2010; $35 mil bond project; County went to state for an enhanced surcharge on top of regular surcharge; those with wired line phones pay $.39/month for 911; enhanced adds $.65/month
  • Enhanced surcharge used for building out and maintaining the system
  • When law written for surcharge, it was authorized with sunset period of 10 years on July 28th 2019, the $.65 enhanced surcharge will sunset and County will no longer collect it; according to Budget, the total calculates to $1.2 mil/year
  • System currently used by 168 agencies including County departments, municipal departments, school bus garages, highway depts, federal and state agencies; about 9,000 radios operate on the system
  • Estimated cost of $1.5 mil/year to maintain system without any improvements - (i.e.) last time at Legislature, asked for bond resolution which included replacing radio towers; 16 towers total in system
  • Costs will continue over life of radio system until it’s replaced with another technology; still have to maintain it at over $1 mil/year; money would have to come out of local property taxes
  • Wish to pursue extension of surcharge for another 10 years past July 28th, 2019 (sunset date); original bill is 10 years, so this will extend it for another 10 years, totaling 20
  • If the County finds it necessary to continue the surcharge, then they will go back to the state in 10 years

Mr. Bleyle responded to Mr. Bottrill that they will need support for the senate bill.  Chairman Ryan said the committee will first vote to amend the resolution to include S.4294, and then vote on the resolution as amended.  

 

Chairman Ryan thanked Commissioner Bleyle, Assemblyman Magnarelli and Senator May for sponsoring this, as it is a lot of money. 

 

Chairman Ryan asked for a motion to amend the resolution to include senate bill S.4294.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Bottrill, seconded by Mr. Rowley, to amend the resolution to include senate bill S.4294.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Mr. Bleyle responded to Mr. Bush that the dollar amount is not changing, and has actually been decreasing, because it is strictly a wired line surcharge. 

 

A motion was made by Mr. Bush, seconded by Mr. Bottrill, to approve this item as amended. 

 

Chairman Knapp asked for an update on the possible consolidation with Madison County.  Mr. Bleyle responded:

  • Working closely with Wingborn Communications (consultant) retained by Madison County to do study; have provided the extensive data requested; currently they are doing baseline of both departments, services, policies and procedures
  • Have first draft – phase one is baseline; working on feedback; strictly snapshot of where both counties are
  • Told it would be 3 months to complete study, which began mid-January; expect final study by mid-April
  • If study says it’s a good idea, then will look at long term and short term savings, plus costs associated; once that occurs, they can bring it to County Executive’s office and Public Safety Committee for further conversation to pursue it
  • Focused on if it will save money long term or short term, and if it will improve services

Chairman Knapp spoke with his counterpart in Madison County who said they are excited and hopeful.  Mr. Bleyle said Onondaga County has significantly invested in 911, since the technology changes so fast.  Smaller counties are challenged by rapidly changing technology.  Onondaga County has the staff to do the due diligence to keep up and maintain the technologies.  The small counties have trouble when they are asked to make the same type of investments. 

 

Chairman Ryan called for a vote on the motion.

 

Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chairman Ryan stated that Ms. Gewanter was at the January meeting discussing vacancies with the Justice Center Oversight Committee.  A prerequisite for one of the members is to have a law enforcement background.  Chairman Ryan will circulate the resume of a very qualified candidate that would fill that need, as soon as a couple questions are answered.  Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated, and the anticipation is to have it on the April agenda for consideration.  Mr. Bush asked if the appointment would then be made in May, and Chairman Ryan said yes, May session.

 

A motion was made by Mr. McBride, seconded by Mr. Bottrill, to adjourn the meeting.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

The meeting was adjourned at 12:14 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

3.13.19_PS_1

JAMIE McNAMARA, Assistant Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

 

3.13.19_PS_2

 

 

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HEALTH COMMITTEE MINUTES - MARCH 14, 2019

TIMOTHY T. BURTIS, CHAIRMAN

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Bottrill, Mrs. Abbott-Kenan, Dr. Chase

MEMBERS ABSENT:  Ms. Williams

ALSO ATTENDING:  Chairman Knapp, Mr. Bush, Mrs. Ervin; see attached list

 

Chairman Burtis called the meeting to order at 9:36 a.m.  A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mr. Bottrill, to waive the reading, and approve the minutes of the proceedings from the previous committee minutes.  Passed unanimously.  MOTION CARRIED. 

 

1.     ONONDAGA COUNTY COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH:  Dr. Indu Gupta, Commissioner

        a.     Confirming Appointments and Reappointments to the Onondaga County Council on Environmental Health

  • 6 members interested in continuing; 3 new members; Mr. Nemecek oversees it
  • Council comprised of experts from different areas; look at water, sewage, ticks, etc.; any environmental health issues
  • Very dedicated individuals with expertise to brainstorm and provide recommendations; anyone can attend

Mr. Nemecek:

  • Generally open for environmental health issues; did a lot over last two years with urban deer and tick issues
  • Summary report from Council was appendix to county plan put together by Mr. Glazier
  • Given recommendations on manure spreading issues; did comment letters on invasive species, hydro-fracking and SPDES permit changes
  • Main purpose is to advise first to Environmental Health, Health Commissioner and Legislature if there are issues

Dr. Gupta added that when she started, there were multiple environmental issues.  It is good to stay connected to get the feedback for active discussions, and ensure the correct information is put forth.  There are meeting minutes available for anyone to read.

 

Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked to be included in the meeting schedule, and Mr. Nemecek responded that they meet the third Tuesday of each month at 8:30 a.m. (usually at the Park’s office in Liverpool).

 

Dr. Chase stated that all the people are qualified, but she would like to see someone from the City on the council.  Mr. Nemecek clarified for Dr. Chase that the Chittenango address is a mailing address only; all members have to live in the County.  Mr. Nemecek said they have had people from the City in the past, and they have tried to keep the membership from being lopsided in any area.  They are open to any suggestions for vacancies.  One of the members, Mr. Gates, lived in the city previously and still is a teacher at Fowler.  He is very interested in environmental health, has done an Onondaga Lake Tour program and keeps the council informed on library programs.  Mr. Gupta feels it is important to have members from different places, but it is hard to recruit, because it is volunteer.  Chairman Burtis stated that it is excellent to value the volunteerism.

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Abbott-Kenan, seconded by Dr. Chase, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chairman Burtis asked if any of the members would like to cosponsor the resolution, and Mrs. Abbott-Kenan, Dr. Chase and Mr. Bottrill all replied yes. 

 

2.     ONONDAGA COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT:  Ann Rooney, Deputy County Executive of Human Services; Michelle Mignano, Deputy Commissioner

        a.     Transfer from Health Department, Account 641010 Regular Employee Wages, to Health Department, Account 694080 Professional Services, $224,503

                Transfer from Health Department, Account 691200 Employee Benefits, to Health Department, Account 694080 Professional Services, $98,781

 

Ms. Mignano:

  • Relying on contractors to deliver pathology services; contract costs around $110,000/month; February is $115,000; will exhaust available contract funds by May; additional costs related to needs of pathology services including testimony
  • 101 vacant positions can cover contract costs through end of year; total is $323,484 - available in 101 and fringe

Chairman Burtis said the recruitment shows they will have a Chief Medical Examiner (ME) and a second Pathologist by May 2019, and there will still be contract services for $55,000.  Chairman Burtis asked if the $55,000 is included in this.  Ms. Mignano replied yes, and said that they think it will be $110,000.  May is presumptuous for recruiting a candidate, and they will still require contract services while getting the new person up to speed.  This transfer is necessary for the remainder of the year.  There may be an option to move money back into the 101 if they are able to recruit.  Ms. Mignano responded to Dr. Chase that the $323,484 is available through the 101 line due to vacant positions within the Medical Examiner’s Office (MEO). 

 

Chairman Burtis asked if 2b relates to 2a.  Ms. Rooney answered that 2a is a straight transfer, and 2b is the future of the MEO.  Ms. Mignano stated that no matter what happens with 2b, they will need 2a.

 

Dr. Chase asked how many positions are they down, and Ms. Rooney replied that currently there are no pathologists in the MEO.  They are all contracted out. 

 

Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked what their time frame is, and Ms. Mignano said that Ms. Rooney will discuss it.  They are in the process of identifying the needs, but at this time, no one will commit.  Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked if there is a pool of candidates, and Ms. Rooney replied no.  Ms. Mignano said that this is why they are using contract pathologists.  Currently they are recruiting from across the nation. 

 

Dr. Chase asked how much they are paying the contract pathologists, and Ms. Rooney responded it is approximately $110,000 to $115,000 per month.  Ms. Mignano said it costs about $2,000 per autopsy, and it depends on what the needs are.  There is a different fee for externals, and a different fee for on call.  Contract pathologists are on call the night before they are scheduled to be here.  The reason is, if there is a crime scene the night before the contract pathologist is scheduled, the forensic investigator on the scene can contact them to tell them what is coming in.  Dr. Gupta said it is standard for them to be on call.  The problem is that there is a significant shortage, and there is a standard of how many autopsies a pathologist can do. 

 

Chairman Burtis stated they will now discuss 2b. 

 

        b.     Establishing a Physicians’ Salary Schedule, and Making Various Personnel Changes

 

Ms. Rooney:

  • Owe gratitude to Dr. Gupta, Ms. Mignano and the entire staff; even with no pathologists, they have a highly functioning office that is name accredited; pathologists coming in are reassured on these things
  • County is pricing itself out of the market – ~500 Forensic Pathologists across country; Forensic Pathologists are hired and can also do contract work; currently relying on contract Pathologists, and use them even when staffed
  • Several attractive pieces to Syracuse including:  cost of living, office sits on campus of Upstate (able to be work with Upstate - continue to do research and teach), and name accreditation (only ~30% accredited across country)
  • Attempting to create separate salary schedule for physicians within Health Dept., because salary not attractive as is
  • (i.e.) Opening in Memphis, TN at name accredited office with starting salary at $300,000

Ms. Rooney passed out the following:

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  • Would like to create a new grade 52 for Chief Medical Examiner (starting salary $250,000); 51 for Deputy (starting salary $230,000); 50 for all other Pathologists and Physicians in Health Department (starting salary $190,000)
  • Contract pathologists - difficulty in scheduling with court proceedings, etc.; having own staff highly advantageous
  • Putting premium on getting Chief ME – an impressive resume will then attract the deputy and pathologists
  • Upstate has Forensic Pathology rotation – Chief working with Fellows Program to grow own pathologists from within

Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked if there are any partnerships locally for this field, and Ms. Rooney said yes; the best entrance pathway is through Upstate.  Ms. Rooney would like the committee to see the office, and how it functions.  Upstate knows how important that office is to their training.

 

Chairman Burtis asked if an ME would come in and have a Pathologist come with them as a team, or is it that an ME is exclusive, and goes wherever they want.  Ms. Rooney responded that one of the candidates interviewed has someone they could attract, and the other is currently contracted with the County.  Forensic pathologists all know each other, and have the ability to recruit those they have done fellowships with.

 

Chairman Burtis asked if there is a possibility for the previous ME to come back.  Mr. Durr responded no.  Chairman Burtis asked if this move is for one candidate looking for “X”.  Ms. Rooney said they have some potential candidates, and pay is a huge issue.  The first date on the list above shows how long the positions have been vacant, and the County wants to avoid being in that position.  Mr. Durr commented that he spoke to the President of the National Association, and the first thing she said was that the salary was woefully low.  She suggested the salary start at $300,000, and Mr. Durr thinks that may be a little high for this area.  Ms. Rooney said if they stabilize, there is a savings compared to what they are paying for contract costs.  Chairman Burtis said the numbers are difficult, but they are paying $110,000 - $115,000 per month for contract. 

 

Ms. Rooney responded to Mrs. Abbott-Kenan that they do have control over who the County contracts with.  Mrs. Abbott-Kenan commented that from her experience at the school board with a shortage of Superintendents, she agrees that the County has to be competitive.  There is a difference of cost of living, snow, proximity to New York City, and other factors to draw someone in.  If the powers to be said this is not going to kill the County, then Mrs. Abbott-Kenan said she is in support of this.

 

Chairman Knapp stated that right now the MEO is treading water, because there is no leader running the office.  Chairman Knapp complimented Ms. Rooney, Dr. Gupta and the Health Department for keeping the “ship” going.  Please keep in mind that the County also has contracts with other counties, including Oneida, to handle these operations, so there is a responsibility there to uphold. 

 

Dr. Chase responded to Chairman Knapp that they have worked with Upstate to encourage the fellows to stay, since they know the system. 

 

Chairman Burtis asked what other counties pay their Chief ME’s; Erie or Broome counties.  California is on the list that was given out, which is the same, but not.  All of this is difficult, and Chairman Burtis is not ready for a vote on item 2b.  Dr. Chase asked what the salaries are for the surrounding areas.  Chairman Burtis requested the contracts for the counties that Onondaga County does business for.  Chairman Burtis said he remembers going over them, but did not remember how much they pay, or how long they are signed for.  Ms. Mignano responded that they have annual renewals for all counties, and they recently completed Oneida’s.  Mr. Durr said if they do not get things in place right now, then those counties are not going to renew their contracts and will go elsewhere.  There is an urgency to get this done for recruitment.  Chairman Burtis knows they need to move this along, but is not sure he can. 

 

Mr. Bottrill asked for a reason why they did not see this sooner than today.  Ms. Rooney replied that they did not expect to lose the Medical Examiner.  In the previous years, they have made jumps for the MEO.  It is possible to get the salaries from Monroe or Erie, but they will not know the relationship they have with (i.e.) Rochester.  The Chief Medical Examiner in Rochester has a contract with Strong Memorial Hospital.  Recruiting is done in partnership with the main hospital in the area.  The salary might be $200,000, and Strong Memorial will supplement that salary with another package that makes it more attractive.  Ms. Rooney responded to Dr. Chase that this is what they are trying to do with Upstate.  If they do not act, then the candidates may interpret that as a lack of support for coming to this community.  Ms. Rooney did not come here sooner, because there was an ME in place with a contract with Upstate.  His overall salary package is unknown, because he could do contract work.  There are opportunities to enhance their salary outside regular hours.  Dr. Chase asked if the contract with Upstate would be through the County, and Ms. Rooney said going forward it will be through the County.  Dr. Chase asked if the pathologists would do their own contract with Upstate, and Ms. Rooney said yes.  Dr. Chase said if they hired someone at the $250,000 - $300,000 range, then Upstate would not be giving the County money to do that.  Ms. Rooney explained that the County will work with Upstate to help subsidize the County’s costs for the ME.  Once a person is in place, then there is something on the table to solidify the program. 

 

Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked about their process for recruiting a Chief ME.  Ms. Mignano said:

  • Went out with $202,000 salary; candidate pool sparse; last 3 Pathologists hired fresh out of fellowship program, and hired at minimal level salary
  • Fellows come in, get trained, then are ripe for picking; lost all three; currently 1 moving back from Colorado, because Onondaga County has a world class office with a toxicology lab
  • Number one issue with developing a fellowship program is having Pathologists in the facility; they also need a certain number of autopsies – need experience; can use other counties work to provide more autopsies

Chairman Knapp stated that the District Attorney works closely with the MEO, and right now it is hard to track down the contract pathologists.  The County is lucky to not have a big trial with extensive appearances, but sooner or later it may happen.  It also adds to the cost with flying the contract pathologists in and out for testifying.

 

Mr. Durr commented that Oneida County is preparing for a homicide trial, and the contract pathologists are hesitant to testify.  The Chief ME would normally testify, so it is problematic.  Ms. Mignano added that the contract pathologists also have to take time off from their full time jobs to do these things, which can be difficult.  Mr. Durr commented they are probably making $400,000 - $500,000 per year, so they have nothing to lose if they do not come here.  Dr. Chase said the County is paying over $1 million for the contract pathologists.

 

Ms. Rooney stated that they cannot lose track of the fact that this is an attractive place to work.  Chairman Burtis said there is a need to move on this, to know the numbers of how much they are currently spending, and how much the County needs to pay.  Chairman Burtis requested the salary numbers from Monroe and Erie counties, as well as the contracts the County has with the other counties.

 

Chairman Burtis said that there are new legislators on the committee, and there is new information regarding pathologists (i.e.) partnering on the side.  What is the County getting for paying the ME $280,000?  They will testify, and run the office.  What can be expected for scheduling if they have a second job?  Ms. Rooney responded that the Chief ME is typically not the one doing the contract work.  They would have the relationship with Upstate, but atypical for a Chief to do contract work. 

 

Dr. Chase asked if they move on 2a to make the money available, would that give the department the ability to make an offer and give the committee an opportunity to get more information on 2b?  Ms. Mignano responded that 2a is only to keep the MEO going as is. 

 

Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked if the partnership with Upstate were to happen, then would there be additional money or reimbursement.  Ms. Rooney explained it would be additional, and they are packaging it to say that every pathologist hired would have the opportunity to train fellows.  It would add to their overall income structure.  Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked what their timeframe is.  Ms. Rooney replied that the candidates interviewed are available to start in the summer after leaving their current positions.

 

Mr. Durr stated that the MEO could lose accreditation if they do not have a pathologist for a certain time period.  Ms. Rooney responded to Mrs. Abbott-Kenan that the leeway is six months.  Chairman Burtis said they are one month in, and Mr. Durr corrected the Chairman that they are closer to two months. 

 

Mr. Bottrill said there are outstanding questions that Chairman Burtis would like answered, and Chairman Burtis agreed.  Mr. Bottrill asked if they could get that information, and reconvene before Ways and Means.  Chairman Knapp interjected that it would have to go to Ways and Means.  Chairman Burtis stated that they can request the information, and hopefully they will receive it before Ways and Means.  The Health Committee members can go to Ways and Means, but it will not be back to this committee.

 

Ms. Mignano said one of the requests from Chairman Burtis was for the rate of pay from other counties for their pathologists.  The relationships the hospitals have with the pathologists is their relationship, and Ms. Mignano said they are not always privy to that information.  Ms. Mignano knows their salaries, and said the pathologist in Monroe County is $170,000 - $190,000.  Erie can be found out via their budget book. 

 

Mr. Durr stated that private hospitals do not have to disclose their contract information.  Chairman Burtis said he understands that, but he would like to get some sense of understanding.  This could potentially be the County’s situation with a pathologist and Upstate, which would draw someone in and make the numbers look good. 

 

Ms. Mignano commented that the last update on the salary for the medical examiner was four to six years ago, and Erie and Monroe counties followed suit.  Ms. Mignano guarantees they are in the $190,000 range, and said the market is changing (website for the National Association of Medical Examiners is the source for recruiting a pathologist).  Mrs. Abbott-Kenan said that Ms. Mignano is saying that they would not be comparing apples to apples, and Ms. Mignano agreed. 

 

Ms. Rooney stated that if it were not for the current crisis, they would not be at the Legislature asking for a salary increase for the Medical Examiner.

 

Chairman Burtis said there was an ME here doing the job at $190,000, and the County lost him.  Does the County need to change everything up?  Chairman Burtis hears everything they are saying, and it makes sense, but the committee needs all the information to feel comfortable going forward.

 

Ms. Rooney asked if it is possible to pass this through committee, and have the information provided through Ways and Means.  Mrs. Ervin responded that it has already been discussed.  Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked if they could call for an emergency Health Committee meeting if the information was provided.  Chairman Knapp said yes; they would have to give notice like any other meeting.

 

Chairman Burtis asked if there is a motion for item 2b, and said he is not willing to give a motion.  Chairman Burtis asked for a motion for item 2a. 

 

A motion was made by Dr. Chase, seconded by Mrs. Abbott-Kenan, to approve item 2a. 

 

Chairman Burtis said item 2a is moving $323,284 from 101 to keep the MEO going, and asked if there is a possibility of $55,000 more.  Ms. Mignano said no.  Ms. Mignano clarified that the costs are pure pathology (i.e. autopsies), and does not include testimony or additional costs.  This is a minimal level to continue to run, but it will not get the MEO through the entire year without a pathologist in place.  The department may be back in the fall for additional funds. 

 

A vote was taken on item 2a.

 

Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chairman Burtis stated that item 2b will be tabled.

 

Chairman Burtis clarified for Mrs. Abbott-Kenan that the item does not have to come through the Health Committee to go to Ways and Means; but it is the preferred way.  Chairman Burtis would rather it to stay in Health Committee.  If that cannot happen, then the courtesy is that the information requested is provided for Ways and Means.

 

Mr. Bottrill supports the idea of the Health Committee reconvening before it goes to Ways and Means.  Chairman Burtis said they will talk about it.

 

        c.     A Local Law Amending the Onondaga County Salary Plan with Respect to the Commissioner of Health

 

Ms. Rooney:

  • Issue with MEO similar to situation when hired new Health Commissioner; similar supply and demand issue
  • Made adjustments 4 - 5 years ago to salary schedule; has to be commensurate to Chief ME
  • Not asking for transfer this year; salary would rise to the same as the Chief MEO salary effective January 1st, 2020
  • If in situation where the County would have to recruit, and Health Commissioner not highest paid in department or equal to MEO, would be difficult; make sure salaries are commensurate

Chairman Burtis said they will have more discussion on that, since there is time; versus the MEO.

 

Chairman Burtis tabled item 2c.

 

A motion was made by Chairman Burtis, seconded by Dr. Chase, to adjourn the meeting.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

The meeting adjourned at 10:39 a.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

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JAMIE M. McNAMARA, Assistant Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

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PLANNING & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE MINUTES - MARCH 14, 2019

JOHN D. McBRIDE, CHAIRMAN

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Buckel, Mr. Holmquist, Mrs. Abbott-Kenan, Mr. Burtis

ALSO ATTENDING: Chairman Knapp, Dr. Chase, Mr. Bush, Mrs. Ervin, Mr. May; see attached list

 

Chairman McBride called the meeting to order at 10:46 a.m.  A motion was made by Mr. Burtis, seconded by Mr. Buckel, to waive the reading of the proceedings from the previous committee.  MOTION CARRIED.  A motion was made by Mr. Buckel, seconded by Mr. Burtis, to approve the minutes of the previous committee meeting.  MOTION CARRIED. 

 

1.     INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY:  Kevin Sexton, Chief Information Officer

        a.     BOND RESOLUTION:  A Resolution Authorizing Technology Refresh Improvements in and for the County of Onondaga, New York, at a Maximum Estimated Cost of $1,581,000, and Authorizing the Issuance of $1,581,000 Bonds of said County to Pay Costs Thereof ($1,581,000)

 

Mr. Sexton:

  • Stressed the importance of the project for the County, the departments it supports, the employees using these services to do their job and the citizen services provided; request addresses at-risk environments or major improvement needs for integrity and security of our computer systems, network application environments and all information assets, also maintains a responsible image of Onondaga County
  • Increased possibility of catastrophic failures if the project does not move ahead, could cause extended downtime, lost productivity, negative image, monetary losses, data breach issues, inability to pay vendors, process payments, or pay employees, and public safety issues because of the systems supported for law enforcement and emergency services
  • Items include:
    • VOIP phone system, not the traditional system, 4 versions behind, need an upgrade to get the system back on support; outages occurred within the past year, fear one day it may not come back up, very important to address
    • Ongov.net redesign runs on old technology with 1 full-time employee and 1 intern, maintain over 76 sites; image item, need a modern site that is mobile friendly, also will empower departments to maintain their own content if possible, easing the burden
    • Server replacement, software for backup systems
    • Core switches very important, anything network related travels through core switches to connect to our computer operations; at end of life in August, need replacement
    • Replace network equipment, firewalls, routers and switches, number of items either at end of life or soon ending support, replacement necessary from security and high availability standpoint
    • Tape library end of life, problematic, 3 major outages over the last year, caused a week of unavailability, a high-risk situation; looking at new technology, won’t use tape, data appliances are available, backup location will be the 911 center if possible
  • Asking for support to reduce areas of risk and maintain high availability and performance

Chairman McBride said the estimated cost is $1.5 million.  He then asked if there is a hierarchy of things that would be done or some cash available to pay some of the expense.  Mr. Sexton responded that there is some wording the resolution for cash if available.  Mr. Morgan stated that this debt would not be issued until next year.  The resolution gives the CFO the authority to evaluate how we end the year and use cash as opposed to borrowing if it makes sense.  Mr. Sexton said that the phone system is the highest priority, then replacement of the core switches and tape library.

 

Mrs. Abbott-Kenan asked the timeframe for implementation.  Mr. Sexton responded that a lot depends on when the funding is received.  The phone system will be about 3 months.  The web design of the home page will be done within a few months but it will take a couple of years for all 76 individual sites.  The server manager can be turned around within a week once the equipment is received.  The replacement of the network switches will be ongoing over the course of eighteen months - aren’t as critical but will be.  The current tape library will not be decommissioned.  There are hundreds of backup jobs and one by one they will be reconfigured onto the new environment. 

 

Mr. Buckel said that he enthusiastically supports this thus his questions are more informational.  If he understood correctly, this will be part of a basket full of other borrowings that will go to market toward the end of this year.  Mr. Morgan responded that starting now, in consultation with Facilities, we evaluate where we are with all capital projects and make a determination on the amount to borrow for that year.  For the most part, we typically play catchup, try not to get too far out where we are funding too much cash.  A project like this would be evaluated for next year.  Mr. Buckel said for the record, “If the markets stayed the same as things are today, which we don’t know but if it does, what do you anticipate as the market interest rates that will apply?”  Mr. Morgan responded, “Probably low threes.”

 

Mr. Buckel asked if any ancillary costs were included in the principal amount, i.e. bond counsel, underwriting fees.  Mr. Morgan responded that they are additional.  Mr. Buckel asked if they were typically paid by the general fund.  Mr. Morgan responded that the issuance costs are paid for out of the project.  Mr. Buckel asked if there was a ballpark percentage that typically applies to these borrowings for ancillary costs.  Mr. Morgan responded that it depends on the size.  Mr. Buckel said that the scale declines the bigger the issuance.  Mr. Morgan agreed and added that we typically issue $20 to $80 million per year in bonds and our bond counsel fee is typically $30,000.  Mr. Buckel stated it was a modest fee and there are underwriting fees as well.  Mr. Morgan agreed.  Mr. Sexton said that $30,000 was included in the CIP for debt issuance costs.  Mr. Buckel commended Mr. Sexton for his work.

 

Chairman Knapp apologized for arriving late and went on to say that at the last meeting we talked about bonding as a last resort because of its useful life period of 5 to 7 years; want to pay cash if it is possible.  Mr. Morgan responded that this was talked about earlier and the resolution allows for that. 

 

In response to Mr. Burtis, Mr. Sexton said that the mobile web design will be much different.  It will be written in response to technology and will adjust the size accordingly.  All of our new sites are being developed in this technology, i.e. amphitheater, sheriff, DA, and some Health sites.       

A motion was made by Mr. Buckel, seconded by Mrs. Abbott-Kenan, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

2.     ONONDAGA COUNTY INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY:  Travis Glazier, Director, Office of Environment

        a.     Authorizing the Sale of Tax Delinquent Property to Ranalli Restoration Project LLC

 

Mr. Glazier:

  • Located in the Town of Van Buren, State Fair Blvd., former Syroco manufacturing facility; half of the property is now occupied by Tessy Plastics
  • Delinquent abandoned facility, Syroco Corporation in bankruptcy as of 2012, haven’t received tax payments from Syroco since 2012, roughly $644,000
  • Environmental easement on property by the NYS Spill Fund, easement about $305,000; tank on facility leaked over a long period of time, large amount of hydraulic fluid is gathered in reservoir under the facility, over time slowly making its way to the lowest elevation on the property where the DEC built a catch basin, basin is vacuumed out on an annual basis and taken to appropriate disposal site, about $10,000 per year to manage the site, will decrease over time, won’t need to be pumped out on a regular basis; otherwise Phase 2 and Phase 1 on site
  • County turned the property over to the IDA a couple of years ago, some concerns over environmental liability issues, didn’t have as much information than and didn’t have a party interested in redevelopment of the site
  • Ranalli proposed purchase of the site for $500,000, requires the legislature to waive delinquent tax

Mr. Weber clarified the delinquent amount as $654,000.

  • Allows for redevelopment, pilot also requested; IDA representatives present to answer questions
  • Came to the Office of Environment as an environmental issue, many interested had environmental concerns; Mr. Yaus worked with the Spill Fund to settle the easement for about $150,000, will be a clean sale to the developer
  • Site is a real mess, to have something happen with this is a major benefit to the community; major liability, kids have parties there, site has a lot of petroleum, holes, and wells where someone could be seriously hurt
  • The facility has good bones, sturdy steel structure, office space and interior ripped up, developer will put a lot of money into this and create jobs; many people are present to answer questions

Chairman McBride asked for an explanation of the pilot agreement and if it was in place.  Mr. Petrovich responded that the IDA received an application from Mr. Ranalli’s Group which requested a 20-year pilot.  They haven’t had a chance to go through it but will be doing that shortly.  Chairman McBride asked the purpose for the building.  Mr. Petrovich responded that it will be a multipurpose warehouse initially with 50 jobs and could grow to more than that. 

 

Mr. Buckel asked if the County had to go through the tax foreclosure process.  Mr. Durr responded that it will be a pass through. 

 

Mr. Burtis asked if $150,000 was a good number to release the property lien.  Mr. Yaus responded that he was waiting on the paperwork and has been assured by the head of the oil spill fund that they have approved the amount.  Mr. Glazier stated that the DEC wanted to see something positive happen with this site as they were burning through money on an annual basis.  They are extremely pleased with this outcome.  It is a very manageable environmental site and it just took the right folks to recognize that.

 

In answer to Mr. Burtis, Mr. Glazier confirmed that there is no reason Ranalli should have an issue managing the spill as it currently lays and getting a certificate of occupancy for the site based on what he has seen in the documentation. 

 

Mr. Bush stated that the Town of Van Buren is thrilled because they have been waiting for this site to be cleaned up.  Since Tessy Plastic moved in next door the site looks even worse because Tessy did such a great job in cleaning up their portion.  The neighbors are going to be thrilled.  It is a wonderful employment center with railroad, gas, and everything a developer would look for, except for the environmental which is being worked on.  It is a real plus for the area and he hopes the committee will endorse it. 

 

Chairman Knapp said that both the county and state will be totally out of all responsibility and liability for this site once this is executed.  Mr. Yaus responded that we will receive an environmental release of the lien in our name and there is no party looking to recoup.  Clauses have also been worked into the agreement itself where we are protected from the buyer and it affects indemnification if someone comes out of the woodwork.  We are as fully protected as we can be.  Chairman Knapp said that if something is found that no one knew about it is not on us.  Mr. Yaus responded, “Exactly”. 

 

Chairman Knapp said that they are not going to teardown buildings.  Mr. Travis confirmed that the buildings will be renovated.  In the short term, they will use the manufacturing space as warehousing space and the office space will be renovated over time. 

 

A motion was made by Mr. Holmquist, seconded by Mrs. Abbott-Kenan, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

3.     GREATER SYRACUSE LAND BANK:  Katelyn Wright, Executive Director; Vito Sciscioli, Chairman Board of Directors 

        a.     Annual Report

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3.14.19_Planning_32

 

Ms. Wright:

  • Introduced Mr. Sciscioli and noted the report was also distributed via email, Chairman of the Board required to report annually in writing and verbally
  • Hopes everyone had a chance to read the report, packed with information, won’t repeat everything in person
  • Noted additional board members present Julie Cerio, Michael LaFlair, and Avery Dougherty, CFO; Pat Hogan also present, hope to have appointed to fill empty board seat soon
  • Last year acquired 261 properties, sold 118, ran about $1 million deficit, worst experienced thus far, anticipated in mobile year business model
  • Fair amount of staff turnover, not much structurally; past couple of years worked on bringing a lot of functions in-house, brought about significant savings
  • Local and state government helpful in avoiding expenses, since creation have been tweaking things to save operating expenses, i.e. exempt from recording charges, saved about $10,000 per month, exempt from special assessments, 2018 amendment changed the law to exempt property tax upon acquisition, otherwise on the hook for the remainder of that current year’s taxes which can really add up
  • Need to think about how to bring in more revenue, on trajectory to deplete fund balance by early 2021; the Land Banks mission is to take vacant and abandoned properties and return them to productive use, primarily take in tax foreclosed properties, stabilize them, evaluate condition, go into demolition or renovation track; backlog of 250 properties for demolition, continually look for grant funding for that purpose, prioritize by safety hazard, chip away at the list each year; don’t want to sink money into demos, perform basic maintenance
  • Rehab candidates receive preventive maintenance so that they don’t become demolition candidates, i.e. tarp roof and clean out; construction manager drafts renovation specs, software estimates material and labor costs, buyers have a good idea what is needed and the amount of financing
  • Screen buyers to ensure they have the recourses to succeed; through the auction and former seizable list buyers had no idea of the property needs before taking title, screening leads to a better success rate, 670 properties sold to date, lien placed on property when sold, if renovations aren’t completed can foreclose and take back property, 5 properties taken back thus far, screening is worth the hassle
  • City and County contribute financially to the Land Bank, request allocation each year during the budget process, early on helped them amass this fund balance, past 3 years ran deficit, trying to convince the City and County this is worth investing in; funds contributed thus far generated about $21 million in private renovation investments, working to stretch public dollars as much as possible, properties go back on the tax rolls and are generating about $1 million per year in property taxes and that number grows annually

Mr. Buckel asked if the amount of tax collection was from inception.  Ms. Wright responded that now that all 670 properties are paying taxes the total is about $1 million per year.

  • Because the Land Bank takes foreclosed properties the City has been a much better collector of delinquent taxes; the County auction incentivizes people to pay, the City stopped using an auction or lien sales due to negative outcomes and collection rates dropped
  • The City started aggressively collecting property taxes when the Land Bank was formed because it provided a backstop, had about 4,000 seizable properties at that point - figured about half would pay to avoid foreclosure, generated about $14.5 million on the City side above their historic levels, over $9 million in improved collections if the same ratio applies to taxes collected on behalf of the County; important to maintain capacity to accept foreclosed properties so that the effectiveness is not diminish  

Mr. Buckel asked that they focus solely on the annual operations for a picture of the future and questioned what model would get them to breakeven or make money.  Mr. Sciscioli responded that without transfer payments from the government we do not have a business model.  When originally contemplated the thought was that by seizing and selling properties enough revenue would be generated to sustain operations.  That is not the case and never was the case.  As a consequence, we have always been tethered to transfer payments.  Mr. Buckel stated that the model was based on the Flint Michigan model and when they met with us they touted that they were eventually able to become self-sustaining.  He then questioned what allowed them to be self-sustaining.  Mr. Sciscioli responded that their revenue source is a major issue.  Ms. Wright stated that Flint basically transferred ownership of tax liens to the land bank so they share the county staff which is doing all the work.  All the interest and penalties that come in from collections are considered land bank revenues.  This was a big source of subsidy, which is not talked about much and is basically how they are getting their government transfer payments.  The other big difference is that Flint operates countywide.  In Michigan and Ohio only counties foreclose on properties, therefore their land bank receives all properties including the higher valued suburban properties.  They are able to cross-subsidize their operations by selling some high-end houses, which helps support some of the areas where they are losing revenue, i.e. Albany County Land Bank house listed for $270,000, a countywide land bank, city doesn’t do foreclosures, county no longer has auctions, all properties go into the land bank therefore they have that same cross-subsidy model which we have not experienced. 

 

Chairman McBride stated that Ohio’s model is a little different as far as expenses, i.e. demolish costs.  Ms. Wright responded that it is between $8,000 and $10,000 to demolish a single-family home in Ohio and Michigan and our cost is about $25,000.  Part of the reason is waste disposal costs.  Regulations are really stringent in NYS, few accept asbestos material and so tipping fees are higher.  Insurance costs are also one of the factors.  We are one of the only states with a vigorous labor law on insurance regulations; pay an extra 8% for general liability.

 

Ms. Wright stated that in Ohio delinquent tax payment interest rates increased from 3% to 8% to fund land banks; generates about $7 million for the Cleveland Land Bank per year.  We are currently at 12%, don’t think we could go to 17%, but are shooting for something similar that would be a dedicated stream; floated proposal for real estate transfer tax.  Knowing where their revenue is coming from Ohio and Michigan land banks can develop long term budgets and plan responsibly, where we have to hope for government support annually.  Mr. Sciscioli stated that assuming none, we will be out of business by 2021.  In which case, there is an interesting conversation, i.e. what happens to our inventory. 

 

In answer to Mr. Burtis, Ms. Wright stated that the land bank has 6 employees and subcontractors are used for a lot of property maintenance.  Mr. Burtis stated he likes the demolition part, understands how difficult and expensive it is, and supports the land bank.  He then asked for a brief overview of the partnership with Home Headquarters.  Ms. Wright responded:

  • Lucky to have that organization in our community; early on the land bank only had 1 staff person and they performed demolitions and renovations for us
  • Demos brought in-house, saved about 10% on administration, still do renovations for us when we have grant funding; Home Headquarters applies for a variety of different grant sources, they are able to layer multiple funding sources to the most effective use
  • Home Headquarters has a robust construction management team and a sales team experienced in selling income restricted properties; received AG funds to rehab 8 houses, must be sold to those earning less than 8% of the area’s median income, Home Headquarters can do the income screening, has experience filing restrictive covenants and doing income monitoring after the fact; really nice partnership, didn’t have to duplicate capacity
  • Really important to us because we primarily sell fixer-uppers, need a way to finance and most banks won’t lend for this kind of construction, think it is too risky, Home Headquarters understands how these projects work and lends for them, owner occupants can roll purchase and renovations costs all in with just 2% down, also help buyers hire contractors and complete the project, interest rates favorable at just under 5%, similar product for investor’s,10% down, most banks would ask for 20% to 25%; able to move properties because of the availability of that financing

Mr. Burtis stated that he has a large experience as a mortgage broker and sees a lot of value in Home Headquarters but it is difficult when people want to change out of the house.  This is not a criticism on Home Headquarters just an observation.  It makes good sense until people want to get out then they are usually upside down and limited on income choices to fix the situation. 

 

Ms. Abbott-Kenan stated that she fully supports the mission and can see it is desirable for any community.  In terms of inventory, salability and continuing to acquire properties, including those not selling, she questioned how a goal is set for the number of properties to be acquired.  Ms. Wright responded that early there was a handshake agreement with the city, we accept the properties they foreclose on and they will take some of the extra revenue to fund us.  We must keep taking properties to help them be a better collector otherwise it breaks down, kind of a codependent relationship.  For four consecutive years, we got $4.5 million from the City.  Mr. Sciscioli stated that there is a little tension here.  Ms. Wright stated that in May of 2017 the City cut funding completely and we decided not to take any more demolition candidates as those lose money.  Acquisitions dropped off in 2017 but we would have gladly taken more rehab candidates if they could have conveyed them to us. 

 

Mr. Buckel said, “When you say could have do you mean could have or would have?”  Ms. Wright responded that she has not been able to figure that out.  It takes a lot of staff time for the City to deal with foreclosures.  For some reason, foreclosures dropped off in 2017 and they added an extra paralegal to try and increase that.  When we first started in 2012 we sketched out the idea of sending 200 notices per quarter to end the backlog and reach normal operating procedure; every April properties 2.5 years delinquent become seizable, some would get foreclosed on and there would be a push into the Land Bank each October.  We thought it would take 3 years to get there but have been doing this for 6 years and have only gotten three-quarters of the way through.  Both are eager to complete the backlog but it has taken longer than expected.

 

Mr. Buckel said that without being critical of colleagues down the road, as a house goes through the tax delinquency process and reaches the city council for determination there is some digression to pull it.  From a policy standpoint, the county is engaged.  He then asked if there is a collaborative policy determination that the County and the City could make together that defines when the property goes to the Land Bank removing individual actions to take property that may have value.  Mr. Sciscioli responded that in his experience there will have to be some discretion.  Mr. Buckel stated that if it is not a significant problem he stands corrected.  Mr. Sciscioli responded that it was not a significant problem.  The NYNEX building is currently being renovated but could have been seized, the City can withhold that and do what was just done with Ranalli; doesn’t think it can be codified to an on and off switch.  Ms. Wright reiterated that the Clinton Land Bank gets the good with the bad and is able to sell some high-end properties through this cross-subsidy.  Over the years the Common Council questioned why they should give us good properties and were told they would then have to give us more money because this is how it balances out.  Then they were concerned about us not taking the demos, now we have a handshake agreement promising that neither will cherry pick to be in everyone's best interests.  Mr. Sciscioli stated that there is still some tension.  Mr. Buckel responded that this was some of the issue he was trying to address.

 

Mrs. Abbott-Kenan said that city property is an overwhelming majority but they believe there is room for outliers of the county besides the one-offs here and there.  Ms. Wright responded that during last year’s annual presentation Jim Corbett suggested the County might want to consider not having a yearly auction and disposing of all the properties through the Land Bank.  Albany County has done this and they think they will get better results.  From a community development standpoint, we can screen the buyers, make sure the plan is acceptable to the local community, and that they have the skill and financing.  Once a year the Land Bank requests a handful of properties from the County that we think would be well suited.  In advance of the auction, the auction list is sent to code enforcement officials, village mayors and town supervisors asking if they feel any of the properties would be better suited for the Land Bank.  The property can be listed in our Home Ownership Choice Program i.e. not a rental.  Might find it needs to be demolished instead of going to a slumlord.  Local officials’ seem to be happy having more control over the outcomes.  Letters of support are received from them and this is how the County is approached to ask for properties.  This process could be applied across the whole list of auction properties likely resulting in more predictable results across the board.  This would help us from a cross-subsidy standpoint and help communities to have more control over the outcomes.

 

        b.     INFORMATIONAL:  Requesting New York State to Amend Article 31 of the State Tax Law to Authorize Onondaga County to Increase the Real Estate Transfer Tax Rate to Three Dollars and Fifty Cents for Each Five Hundred Dollars or Fractional Part Thereof (Sponsored by Mr. Bush)

 

Chairman Knapp:

  • Proposal has been through a dynamic process for several weeks, currently a transfer tax is paid to NYS when property is sold, $2 for each $500, have the ability to apply our own version similar to sales tax, part would go to the state and part would stay in the county
  • County Executive’s concept would add a County Real Estate Transfer Tax with part going to the Land Bank and part going to our own housing initiatives throughout the county; resolution numbers are askew and would change
  • Current resolution not supported by the state delegation, Assembly and Senate must also approve authorization; on agenda for conceptual discussion only

Mr. Buckel asked what $2 per $500 would bring in annually.  Ms. Primo responded that every dollar brings in about $1.5 million.  Ms. Wright clarified that every dollar per thousand brings in $1.5.  In answer to Mr. Buckel, Ms. Wright responded that currently, the county’s share of the $6 million is zero as it is all state tax.  Mr. Buckel said that the additional increase would be all county and the fight is general revenues as opposed to putting it in a specific lock.

 

Mr. Holmquist asked if the state provided their specific objections.  Chairman Knapp responded that they basically want a standalone funding stream for the Land Bank.  They do not want the County to take a portion for its own housing initiatives. 

 

Mr. Buckel asked if other counties have state authorization to charge a higher mortgage recording fee for general revenues.  Ms. Primo responded that there are about 6 or 7 and over the past 10-15 years a number of them have increased their transfer tax and dedicated it for their general fund.  One state concern is that we would be ignoring the state tax cap.  They would look at this more favorably if all the funds were dedicated to the Land Bank and anything that would prevent them from going into the general fund.  Mr. Buckel asked if these funds would not be included in the sales tax calculations if they were exclusive to the land bank.  Mr. Morgan responded that it is not included and would not be anyway.  Ms. Wright added that it is just property tax

 

Chairman Knapp stated that this morning the Assembly passed $20 million in their budget for the 25 land banks across NYS; the Senate would also have to do something and the governor would have sign off on it too.  Ms. Wright responded that it is a one shot.  Chairman Knapp agreed that there is no guarantee for any other year.  Ms. Wright stated that this also happened last year during the state budget.  The assembly is very generous, they put this in, then it gets cut out during the negotiation process, and this year’s state budget is even bleaker than last year.  Chairman Knapp stated that one of the reasons the assembly delegation was critical of this was that they were already giving money and we were adding on top of it.  Ms. Primo stated that the $20 million was thought of as a way of maybe delaying this so that more thought could be put into it.

 

Ms. Primo stated that another comment was that this would not be needed in our general fund because of the increase of tax collected on internet sales.  Chairman Knapp responded that what that tax will actually generate is still a very nebulous number.  Also, as of right now, the AIM funding will come out of that tax which is about $1.6 million.  There are still a lot of moving parts.

 

In answer to Mr. May, Ms. Wright said that land banks have never received any funding through the State’s budget.  Mr. May said that this has been proposed before but this is the first time it got legs.  Ms.  Wright agreed, adding that her bigger concern is that the Land Bank’s deficit is completely driven by property maintenance expenses, i.e. mowing, trash removal, board ups and such.  While state funds would be nice, she is sure it would just pay for more of the same demos or rehabs; need some sort of sustainable funding source that can be counted on year over year to deal with unglamorous expenses.  Mr. May asked if there had been discussions with the State about sustainability beyond what was just explained.  Ms. Wright responded that for a long time the state’s response has been that they are willing to fund this unit of widgets, whether demos, rehabs or whatever, and the local government has to figure it out how to fund the other things.  The 25 counties in the NYS Land Bank Association have been trying to figure out how to emulate the predictable revenue streams they have in Michigan and Ohio; pitched the idea for real estate transfer tax statewide in any county that has a land bank and it was shot down.  This last year we were told there is no way that the state is going to pass a tax increase that would apply to that many counties.  The State has not proposed anything and has not been very receptive to our ideas either.

 

Chairman May said that for clarification we are hearing that there is no appetite to allow Onondaga County to charge more than the anticipated need for the Land Bank or to use the money exclusively for the Land Bank.  However, there is no formal policy to that effect.  Ms. Primo responded that if there is interest in helping out with if there is a dedicated portion that would go to the Land Bank and whatever else we raise may go into something but it could not land in the general fund, i.e. a lot of infrastructure needs, sewers are not funded by the general fund.  Sunsets and things like that have also been talked about.  There are conversations to be had if this body is interested.  It is a nice way to fund some of the critical needs in our community, at least for a period of time.

 

Mr. Bush complimented the Land Bank staff who work hard and put their heart and soul into trying to transform the community.  The volunteer board brings in good suggestions and policy decisions and deserves a lot of credit for the time and effort they put in.

 

Mr. Bush stated there is a timeline for put together a Home Rule Resolution as the state legislature usually shuts down in June and these things need to be on their docket.  He understands the concerns of some legislators in our delegation and would like to propose reducing the amount to $2.00, adding a 4-year sunset provision, and dedicating these funds solely to the Land Bank.  This gives the Land Bank an opportunity to have a relatively stable stream of money.  Some predictability is needed as these changes don’t happen overnight and a dependable funding source is needed.  Hopefully, the state legislature will find these changes acceptable.  It doesn’t get complicated, is very simplistic, a one purpose home rule resolution to benefit one particular county agency.  Mr. Buckel responded that it sounds as if some negotiations need to occur before the resolution is brought forth. 

 

Mr. Frateschi stated that the resolution states $3.50 per $500.  The confusion lays in that the statute states $2 per $500 but when lawyers are doing a transfer they say $4 per $1,000.  His assumption is that the proposed number would either be $2.00 or some variation under $2 per $500 as opposed to $3.50 per $500.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Burtis, seconded by Mr. Buckel, to adjourn the meeting at 11:53 a.m.  MOTION CARRIED.

 

Respectfully submitted,

3.14.19_Planning_33

KATHERINE M. FRENCH, Deputy Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

3.14.19_Planning_34

 

 

 

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 WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE MINUTES

March 26, 2019

DEB CODY, CHAIR

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:  Mr. Rowley, Mr. May, Mr. Ryan, Mrs. Ervin, Mr. Jordan, Ms. Williams

ALSO PRESENT:  Chairman Knapp, Dr. Chase, Mr. Bush, see also attached list

 

Chair Cody called the meeting to order at 9:13 a.m.  A motion was made by Mr. May, seconded by Mrs. Ervin, to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the proceedings of the previous committee.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

1.     ONONDAGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE:

        a.     Calling for a Public Hearing on the Tentative 2019-2020 Budget of the Onondaga Community College

  • Public Hearing to be held May 21st at 9:00 a.m.

 

A motion was made by Mr. May, seconded by Mr. Jordan, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chair Cody moved items 2a and 2b to the end of the agenda.

 

3.     INFORMATION TECHNOLOGYKevin Sexton, Commissioner

        a.     BOND RESOLUTION:  A Resolution Authorizing Technology Refresh Improvements in and for the County of Onondaga, New York, at a Maximum Estimated Cost of $1,581,000, and Authorizing the Issuance of $1,581,000 Bonds of said County to Pay Costs Thereof ($1,581,000)

  • Computing systems and associated environments are critical for most of our employees to perform job functions
  • Addresses maintaining integrity and security of computer systems:
  • VOIP phone system – licensing up to date
  • Re-do of OnGov website – modernize it and make it more responsive, more mobile compatible; maintain 76 site – want to empower most employees to take over most of their content once there is a base design in place
  • Tivoli server manager – maintains backups of all data – needs replacement
  • Core switches – nearing end of life
  • Network equipment at various sites that is at end of life or near end of life that needs to get back on support
  • Tape Library Replacement – new technology for better protection; would allow back up recovery and disaster recovery availability; opportunity to have a device at 911 Center

 

Mr. Rowley asked if the PPU on this bond is 5 years--a 5 year bond; Mr. Morgan confirmed that it is.  Mr. Rowley said that a PPU for Sheriff patrol cars is 5 years and we don’t bond for them.  Mr. Morgan agreed.  Mr. Rowley said that he has difficulty bonding for capital assets that are a 5 year PPU.  He would like to see this as part of the budget.  One way to do that is to allocate for funds in the budget.  If they aren’t used for refreshers or capital expenditures, put them in a project account and build the money up that way.

 

Mr. Rowley asked Mr. Morgan if he is aware of any project account monies that could be re-purposed at this point to fund what is needed to be done with the CIP request.  Mr. Morgan said “no”, adding that he wouldn’t be here asking if there were project funds somewhere else that could be used.  Mr. Morgan said that the resolution also allows him to use cash at the end of 2019.  He said that if at the end of 2019 the county is in a position where there is surplus, he has the ability to determine if cash would be used

 

Mr. Jordan asked if any IT refreshers or updates in the near future are anticipated.  He said that it seems this is being done a lot; every time is $1 or $2 million.  He said that he understands technology changes rather quickly, but it seems like a huge investment for things that are here today and gone tomorrow.  Mr. Sexton said that it has not been specific to these types of equipment in these environments.  These have not been addressed in year; they try to manage them as much on operating as they can.  The big ticket items are not something they have been able to include in their budget.  Mr. Sexton said specific to these environments, he can see anything happening for ideally another 7 – 8 years.  He agreed there have been some things in the past, but nothing related to this environment; he has not been to CIP in 3 years.  There was a small spend for improvements for asset management.  Mr. Jordan said that there are number of different IT components, and asked if across county government are there further upgrades or refreshers anticipated.  Mr. Sexton said that they continue to keep things operable and improve them; try to manage them in the operating budget.  Going back 5 – 8 years ago, some of these items were handled through leases.  He said they are going to more subscription based solutions, which goes on operating.  That is more and more common, especially when there are environments that run on the cloud.  Some improvements have been made under operating – high speed storage and computing environment for virtual machine environment.

 

Mr. May said that these are insatiable requirements in today’s day and age.  The rate of which it becomes insatiable increases every day with things are moving as fast as they are.  He asked what the specific process is at the end of 2019 if able to use cash.  Mr. Morgan said that they would appropriate those funds into a project or operating budget to pay for the cost of the project, instead of issuing bonds.  Mr. May said it would be available cash within the authorized budget.  Mr. Morgan said that it would have to exist as surplus at the end of 2019.  Mr. May asked if they would be part of the year-end transfer or a regular budget transfer.  Mr. Morgan said the legislation allows him to do it, so there would have to be any other legislative action.  Mr. Maturo said that they would have the appropriation in the transfer to capital, which would likely be seen on the year-end resolution.

 

Chair Cody asked about the timeframe on these projects.  Mr. Sexton said that many of these would start as soon as there is approval from the legislature.  Once there is a project created, they would start being competitively bid on; one or two of them would require an RFP.  Most of them should be done this year; the website will continue for about two years because of the 76 sites.  They will focus on the primary sites like the home page and some of the forward-facing, hot hit sites like property tax, county executive, and legislature.  It will have a whole new look and feel.

 

Chairman Knapp noted that a number of years ago there was big a capital plan to do a county-wide computer replacement program, and asked when that will be coming up again.  Mr. Sexton said that the model has changed for that because there is less and less running at the PC/desk top level these days; things mostly run on the Web and/or the cloud.  Over the last 3 or 4 years they have been working on a break/fix mode.  They have a budgeted surplus of PCs, tablets, etc.  If the problem can’t be addressed by reimaging the problem or adding memory, then they replace it outright.  In 2020 a higher number will be budgeted for in operating because they have to upgrade to Windows 10. 

 

Mr. May referred to VOIP and asked if there is any potential for shared services, supporting municipalities, with that infrastructure.  Mr. Sexton said that there is, but it comes with a licensing cost; there is a per phone license charge.  It typically comes out cheaper than a traditionally analog phone through Verizon, i.e.  Mr. May asked if that is given the County’s scale.  Mr. Sexton agreed that it is.  Mr. May asked about extending system access to municipalities.  Mr. Sexton said that it is realistic, but would come up with a base license charge.  The county could support it going forward; their phone bill would be much cheaper – up to 25 – 30% cheaper, but would have to bill them back.  Mr. May asked if they could see that savings if they were to just subscribe to a service as well.  Mr. Sexton said “possibly”; there are some cloud services that might go a long way if it is a small shop.  He said that if you can get less than $20/month, you are doing fairly well.  He said that the county has looked at a lot of different companies, the cloud model is liked, but it’s not there yet for the county.  It actually comes out to be more money than having it on premise.

 

Mr. Ryan noted that with the cloud you have to have more of an Internet connection.  Mr. Sexton said that it doesn’t have to be a huge-speed Internet, but a decent speed – 25 megabits/second would be fine.  Most providers provide at a minimum 100 megabits/second download for reasonable money – becoming more and more competitive.  They would need something more than DSL or a low speed connection.  Mr. Ryan asked if a lot of the shared services placed would have 100 megabits.  Mr.  Sexton said that a lot of them don’t.  Mr. Ryan said that is an investment also.  Mr. Sexton said that Spectrum and FIOS are offering those types of speeds for the same or a little bit more per month.  The county is going around now to all its ancillary sites and upgrading speeds, and are not realizing any significant increases at all.  It is really getting an old modem replaced. 

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Ervin, seconded by Ms. Williams, to approve this item.  AYES:  6; NOES:  1 (Rowley).  MOTION CARRIED.

 

4.     ONONDAGA CO. INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY:  Travis Glazier, Director, Office of Environment

        a.     Authorizing the Sale of Tax Delinquent Property to Ranalli Restoration Project LLC

  • Office of Environment has been involved with the property
  • Started talking to interested parties about Syroco site a few years ago
  • Resolution adopted allowing OCIDA to take the property
  • Syroco, plastic manufacturing company, went bankrupt in 2014
  • Taxes not received since 2011 or 2012
  • 2010 - NYC DEC recognized that there was a petroleum based spill, hydraulic fluid under the ground
  • DEC instituted a cleanup – monitoring wells in slab of structure and eastern corner of the site--hydraulic fluid flows under ground to a catch basin (storm drain) on east side of site; a vac truck pumps out the material once a year – it has worked
  • Adjacent to Seneca River – DEC took action that it might cause spill to go into river; have been monitoring it and it has been in good shape
  • Since 2010 it has required $10,000 annual; total DEC has $305,402 investing in this cleanup associated with the spill fund
  • County has accrued a net of $654,000 in back taxes – property eligible to be foreclosed on
  • Developer reached out to County – interested in using it for a warehousing operation
  • Developer offered county $500,000 to settle out the back taxes; is talking to OCIDA about a PILOT on the site; developer has a sizeable investment planned out to the structure
  • Warehousing area is in relatively good shape - a fire in late ’80’s or early ’90’s and the whole structure was re-built; office area in very bad shape – will need complete renovation
  • Jobs will be created
  • Developer will invest quite a bit of money to get the facade and front area cleaned up
  • Decade of being a massive eyesore and liability to community--kids go in and party--not safe
  • County will take on the environmental lien of $305,000 – Mr. Yaus, Law Dept., has been negotiating with State Spill Fund, NYS Comptroller’s office – have agreed to $150,000 to settle it out
  • Net cost for settling tax delinquency will be $350,000
  • NYS DEC has been a great partner in this property; county benefits from the ability have open dialogues

 

Mr. Jordan said that the county will take a $310k hit on what is owed in taxes and what will be in hand after the environmental lien is satisfied.  Mr. Weber said that a significant portion of that is penalties and interest.  The original amount of taxes was about $425,000.  Mr. Jordan asked if the developer is assuming any responsibility for any additional cleanups, etc.  Mr. Yaus confirmed that Ranalli is assuming all liability associated once he takes the property. 

 

Mr. Rowley asked if it known what the PILOT might look like.  Mr. Glazier said that he hasn’t been in discussion with the IDA.  Mr. Donnelly said that Ranalli has submitted an application, and it is still under review.

 

A motion was made by Mr. May, seconded by Mrs. Ervin, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

5.     EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONSWilliam Bleyle, Commissioner

        a.     Memorializing NYS Legislature to Enact Legislation (A.4763/S.4294) in Relation to Communication Service Surcharges Under County Law Within Onondaga County, and Requesting and Concurring in the Preparation of Home Rule Request

  • 2009 built out interoperable radio system – went to state legislation seeking authorization to impose a $.65 supplemental surcharge on wire-lined phones in Onondaga Co. to help fund bonding & maintenance
  • When NYS authorized surcharged, they installed a 10-yr. sunset provision – roughly about the equivalent of the bonding at the time
  • July 28, 2019 the 10 years will expire; Onondaga Co. will see a loss of approx. $1.2 million in surcharge revenue
  • Radio system exists – provides services within Onondaga Co. to 160 different public safety and public service agencies (police, fire, EMS, school districts, DPW’s, municipal services, county depts.)
  • System costs approx. $1.5 million to maintain
  • Don’t want to see loss of that surcharge – have asked the state to assist; they have introduced the bill authorizing another 10 year extension

 

In answer to Chair Cody, Mr. Bleyle confirmed that this is just on land lines.  Chair Cody asked about the decline over the years, as people are doing away with their landlines.  Mr. Bleyle said that he didn’t have the exact number, but there is an annual decrease in that revenue.  At one point, early, on it was over $2 million.  Chair Cody said it will decline even more in the next 10 years.  Mr. Bleyle agreed.  He explained that over a year ago the State agreed to included pre-paid on the wireless surcharge - $.30 per device, but does help offset the declining revenues that all across the state are seeing with landline charges. 

 

Chairman Knapp referred to the County Volunteer Firefighters Association asking about an upgrade to radios, and asked for clarification.  Mr. Bleyle said that they are referring to the mobile data system, noting that the bonding to replace that system is still being worked on.  The system was installed in 2007 and is well beyond its useful life.  It is basically a move from the current data system to a commercial broadband service-based data system for all police, fire, and EMS vehicles.  In answer to Chairman Knapp, Mr. Bleyle explained that the mobile data system allows Emergency Communications to communicate electronically to the computers that are in police, fire, and EMS vehicles.  It allows them to access hazardous materials database; automatic vehicle location; access to computer aided dispatch database; write mobile reporting.  Chairman Knapp asked if the money from this surcharge can be used for that.  Mr. Bleyle said that there is some flexibility for that, but right now it’s going against the local dollars for the radio system.  

 

A motion was made by Mr. Rowley, seconded by Mr. Ryan, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

6.     WATER ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION:  Tom Rhoads, Commissioner

        a.     Authorizing the Execution of Agreements with the City of Syracuse for Incorporation of Green Infrastructure within Specific Road Reconstruction Projects ($761,439)

  • IMA with City of Syracuse to do green infrastructure work – City Road reconstruction projects
  • To do work on our own would cost roughly $.70/gallon for every capital dollar spent
  • Projects being done in cooperation with the City, County doesn’t end up doing any curb, street painting, etc., afterwards and the costs is about $.21/gallon – allowing $.50/gallon in capital costs
  • City performs that work and county reimburses them at the end of the project
  • Money is already appropriated from ACJ sewer sheds – Harbor Brook and sewer separation/green Infrastructure sewer shed

 

Mr. Rowley asked how the infiltration trenches work.  Mr. Rhoads explained that it takes the stormwater from out of a catch basin and puts it into a large gravel filled trench.  The base of that trench goes to Mother Nature.  Stormwater off of the street goes into catch basin and into the infiltration trench; the infiltration trench fills up with water and allows the water to infiltrate back into the ground.  The infiltration trenches have an overflow – when there is a really heavy storm, which would overflow into the combined sewer.  The purpose is to act like a sponge, and catch the initial first flush of stormwater and prevent it from going into the combined sewer system and thereby attenuates the likelihood of combined sewer overflow.  Mr. Rowley asked how long they last and if there is a maintenance requirement.  Mr. Rhoads said that they are maintained by the WEP team.  Practices suggest that they should last at least 10 years, but have not seen any diminution of the infrastructure – some have been in place since 2009 and 2010.  The gravel can fill up with silt, dirt and get caught.  There are cleanouts installed in the infiltration.  Also, catch basin filters are installed upstream of them to catch cigarette butts, silt, dirt, grit and gravel – allowing the trench to go on for a longer period of life.

 

Mr. May said that the highlight of this project is that it is a coordinated effort between the City and the County; a significant amount of money is saved as a result.  This model is the highlight of any vision that has been seen on working with the towns and villages in a similar way.  There is some real upside potential to save some money and fix some of these problems.  Mr. Rhoads said that there is a lot of infrastructures which was installed well over 100 years ago.  The City itself, our main intercepting sewer, Harbor Brook intercepting sewer was built in 1895.  Villages have some infrastructure that is 70 – 80 years old.  There is a lot of work to do by figuring out how to do these in a one-dig scenario; there is OCWA, City water lines, National Grid gas and utilities there.  A lot of it will be done with no dig, trenchless technologies also – critical to keeping the cost in line.

 

Mr. Jordan asked if there is a similar dialogue going on with the towns and villages.  If the city, a town, or village is going in and doing work, whether it be a sewer, drain, etc., there should be a dialogue asking if there is work that needs to be done while it is open.  Mr. Rhoads said that in this case, it is a trench technology--digging trenches under the street.  Many of the future consolidation efforts are hoped to be accomplished with trenchless technology – lining a pipe with a new pipe.  There will be instances where we will marry our approach with what they are doing – a key part of every project that is done at WEP – working with all the stakeholders.

 

Mr. Ryan said that this specific area takes in a lot of water – a catch all that comes down form Geddes and Onondaga.  A lot work, money, and time has been done on Harbor Brook basin to get water out or stay there and dissipate before it gets into Harbor Brook.  This is a really good project and moving forward with it is important; the less water in there is the less it taxes the infrastructure.

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Ervin, seconded by Mr. Rowley, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chairman Knapp thanked Mr. Rhoads for his years of service to the county and congratulated him on his retirement.

 

7      ADULT AND LONG TERM CARE SERVICESAnn Rooney, Deputy Co. Executive/Human Services

        a.     A Local Law Eliminating the Burial Fee for Veterans, Veterans’ Spouses and Veterans’ Dependents Eligible for Burial within the Onondaga County Veterans Cemetery, and Amending Local Law No. 10-2013 (Sponsored by Mr. Knapp)

  • Previous to County Executive McMahon there was a big appetite on the legislature to have this work out; it is one of the highest requests of the Veterans Advisory Board
  • Make burials free of charge to veterans, spouses and dependents
  • Work between Adult & Long Term Care Services and the Parks Dept., who manages the cemetery

 

Mrs. Ervin stated that this is a good idea and long overdue.  The cost the county charged was minimal to begin with, but most national cemeteries don’t charge anything.  This is keeping with the way it should be.

 

Mr. Rowley asked if it applies to the spouse at the time of death or all previous spouses.  Ms. Rooney confirmed that it applies to the spouse at the time of death.  She added that if there was a request regarding previous spouses, it would be handled as it comes.

 

Mr. Jordan asked how eligibility is determined – is it for residents of the county only.  Ms. Rooney said that it is anyone who is a resident of the county who applies.  She said that if, for example, a veteran lived in Syracuse all of their life, retired to Florida, but their family was here, they would still be eligible to be buried in our cemetery.  Mr. Jordan asked what the criteria is.  Ms. Rooney said they apply, and the application is processed.  Mr. Jordan asked if they have to be a resident for a certain time period.  Mr. Morgan said that he doesn’t think they have to be resident for certain time period.  Ms. Rooney said they just have to be a veteran.  Ms. Lesniak clarified that the requirement is that they had to be a resident for five years.  Mr. Jordan asked how the residency is verified.  Ms. Rooney said that she will find out, but is sure it is related to the process they go through and apply for assistance across the board at Veteran’s Services.  Mr. Morgan said that the same process used now will be used in this case.  In answer to Mr. Jordan, Ms. Rooney said that the veteran comes in with their DD214; it is reviewed to make sure they are an honorably discharged veteran, and it is processed.  A veteran can choose to use virtually any Veteran’s Service office in the country; locally we are predominantly seeing just veterans from Onondaga County.  For benefits received that are strictly county benefits, they would likely have to be Onondaga County residents, but she will verify it.  Mr. Jordan said that now we are talking about burying them for free so there is a pecuniary incentive to be a resident of Onondaga County.  Ms. Rooney said that most places are already free.

 

Ms. Williams asked if right now our citizens are running to free cemeteries to be buried.  Ms. Rooney said that hasn’t been asked, but she will have that verified. 

 

Mr. Bush explained that there is a lot of information to fill out, and they have to verify that they have been a resident for five years for some time during their life and honorably discharged.  He said that they can move to Florida, but come back for burial if they have that eligibility.  It is a pretty straight forward application, and they have been doing it for years.  

 

Mr. May said that there is an account that will largely fund this expense for the count perhaps to the point that the cemetery is full.  The fund has been used for other things along the way--could be used if a piece of capital equipment is required.  For the most part, this plan is backed by money.  Ms. Rooney agreed.

 

Mr. Rowley said that he understands that we will try to refund money to people.  Ms. Rooney said that it is for those who have prepaid. 

 

A motion was made by Ms. Williams, seconded by Mrs. Ervin, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

8.     ONONDAGA COUNTY TOBACCO ASSET SECURITIZATION CORP.:

        a.     Reappointing Two Directors to the Onondaga County Tobacco Asset Securitization Corporation (Brian May, Casey Jordan) (Sponsored by Mr. Knapp)

 

A motion was made by Mr. Rowley, seconded by Mr. Ryan, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

        b.     Confirming the Appointment of the Independent Director to the Onondaga Tobacco Asset Securitization Corporation (Peter Seitz)

 

Mr. Morgan stated that the local law dictates a five member board and one member is deemed to be an independent director – someone who has no current connection to the county.  They are not compensated.  The current Independent Director no longer has ability to fill the roll.  Mr. Seitz has a lot of experience in working for the county and understands OTASC.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Jordan, seconded by Mrs. Ervin to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

9.     FINANCESteven Morgan, CFO

        a.     Memorializing the Legislature and the Governor of the State of New York to Enact Legislation to Extend the Authorization for Onondaga County to Impose the Additional One Percent Rate of Sales and Compensating Use Tax and to Provide for the Allocation and Distribution of the Net Collections of Said Additional Rate

  • Requirement to request the state to allow the County to charge the additional 1% of sales tax
  • Process that needs to be followed – this is the first step

 

A motion was made by Mr. May, seconded by Mrs. Ervin, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

        b.     Refunding Bond Resolution Dated April 2, 2019 Authorizing the Issuance Pursuant to Section 90.10 of the Local Finance Law of Refunding Bonds of the County of Onondaga, New York, to be Designated Substantially “Public Improvement Refunding (Serial) Bonds”, and Providing for Other Matters in Relations Thereto and the Payment of the Bonds to be Refunded Thereby”

Mr. Morgan:

  • Refinance outstanding bonds – par value is $25 million
  • Looking to refinance the bonds with a potential net present value savings of $1.2 million, budgetary savings of almost $1.6 million – historically spread over 10 years period
  • Annually continue to evaluate outstanding debt – if it makes sense to refinance
  • Typically underwriters or fiscal advisors approach when they believe there is outstanding debt that they believe can be refinanced
  • Go through a competitive process to choose the underwriter to initiate the transaction
  • Going to market to refinance the bonds will dictate the actual savings

 

Mr. Rowley asked if the State Comptroller has to weigh in on the refinancing.  Mr. Morgan confirmed that he does and approves it.  Mr. Rowley asked if there is a threshold that Mr. Morgan looks for in terms of savings.  Mr. Morgan said that he looks for between 3% – 5% of net present value savings.  He does not think that there is a limit that the State Comptroller looks at.

 

Mr. Jordan asked how is it determined which bonds get financed.  Mr. Morgan explained that they have to be eligible; have to be in the call period where they can be called and paid off.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Rowley, seconded by Mr. May, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

        c.     Memorializing the NYS Legislature to Adopt Legislation Granting Municipalities and School Districts within Onondaga County the Option to Conduct Open Auction Public Bond Sales through an Electronic Open Auction (Sponsored by Mr. Knapp)

Mr. Morgan:

  • Memorialize the state to pass legislation that allows for a pilot in Onondaga County to utilize the open auction for selling our bonds
  • Currently only allowed to use the closed auction process – put our bonds out of sale, bidding process ensues, lowest bid wins
  • No opportunity for any back and forth
  • Grant Street facilitates the closed process; they asked if the county would be interested in piloting the open auction platform – used in most other states
  • Grant Street is trying to get baseline information to provide to the NYS Legislature to see if they can get support to pass it on a statewide basis and asked Onondaga Co. to pilot this
  • No down side
  • Open auction would inform the bidder where they rank in the process – submit a bid and will tell the vendor how many bidders there are or where they rank in terms of the bids
  • Case studies show that it pushes down the true interest cost over the period of that auction – underwriters will know that they aren’t going to win the bid at that point and will continue to reduce their interest rates

Mr. Jordan said that they can re-bid at a lower rate.  Mr. Morgan agreed; there is a certain open window to do that; after a certain amount of time, they shut it off.

  • Not a requirement to use it; gives us an option
  • Any initiative to reduce the cost of borrowing is something that should be pursued

 

A motion was made by Mr. Jordan, seconded by Mrs. Ervin to approve this item.

 

Mr. May asked if this is a fee structure or a commission in using the third party to conduct this.  Mr. Morgan said that it is a fee structure.  He does not have written quotes, but they have said that a $100 million issuance would be roughly $15,000.  It’s not a huge administrative cost; would be rolled into the cost of issuance.  The savings that it could garner would far outweigh the administrative fee.  The goal is to see what savings it garners and this company wants to use it as ammunition with the State Legislature to get it approved statewide. 

 

In answer to Mr. Ryan, Mr. Morgan said that Grant Street just facilitates the auctions process.  They don’t go out and try to sell our bonds. 

 

Chair Cody asked if Onondaga is the only county in the state.  Mr. Morgan said that they are in conversation with Genesee County as well – they are trying to get a handful of counties to pilot this in hopes of garnering the information to support their aspirations of getting a state-wide approval.  Thirty plus states allow this method of auction. 

 

Mr. Jordan asked about the experience of the other states that use this method.  Mr. Morgan said that he was provided with four examples of local governments.  The snapshot showed when the bidding opened and then where it ended – it ranged from 40 – 50 basis points that the raters were being reduced, which is pretty significant.

 

Mr. Ryan referred to the fee example of $15,000 on a $100 million issuance and asked if there is something scalable in writing.  Mr. Morgan said that he does not have written quotes, it was more of a verbal conversation about the potential fee.  He noted that we rarely issue that amount of bonds at once; it’s going to be insignificant.  If this goes through and it is piloted, any fees would be negotiated.  As it gets closer, he can share it with the legislature. 

 

A vote was taken on the motion.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

        d.     Monthly Report - Double Encumbered Positions (Res. 86-2018)

 

chart

 

Mr. Morgan:

  • No new names added; one in Co. Executive’s office dropped off
  • 5 positions still double filled
  • One is a shared position in DA’s office – not more than 100% filled
  • Some that have been double filled in excess of a year would be addressed in the 2020 budget or a decision will be made that they are not going to be double filled anymore

 

2.     HEALTH DEPARTMENTAnn Rooney, Dep Co Exec/Human Svcs; Michelle Mignano, Dep Health Comm

        a.     Transfer from Health Department, Account 641010 Regular Employee Wages, to Health Department, Account 694080 Professional Services, $224,503;

                Transfer from Health Department, Account 691200 Employee Benefits, to Health Department, Account 694080 Professional Services, $98,781

Ms. Mignano:

  • When 2019 budget was built, had 2 pathologists and 2 vacancies; previously had contract pathology services budgeted; have had significant changes in 2019
  • Transfer to cover additional contracted pathologists to maintain pathology services
  • Estimates were done when only Jan. & Feb. were in the books; are up more – additional costs without having on-staff pathologies
  • Have to pay for testimony services
  • Funds available within budget due to vacant pathologist positions and typist II

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Ervin, seconded by Mr. May, to approve this item.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

        b.     Establishing a Physicians’ Salary Schedule and Making Various Personnel Changes

Ms. Rooney:

  • Testament to county employees – had a very unforeseen change at Medical Examiner’s office – professionalism of staff has allowed continuity of operations; meeting all contract requirements  - making it attractive to candidates
  • Candidates that have been interviewed have seen the office; name accredited is also very important for candidates
  • Relationship with NAME, accrediting body -- told us we are priced out of the market
  • Likely not going to find a candidate coming from the greater Syracuse area; are recruiting nationwide
  • Because of some of our challenges and weather, candidates have a big decision to make
  • NAME, in speaking to Mr. Durr, has said that we have to increase the salary
  • Information has been provided for Rochester and Erie County – the difference is that they are staffed
  • When we were staffed, increases were not sought; when there is a vacancy, it lasts for quite awhile if you don’t have position attractive for:  location, salary, NAME accreditation, affiliation with a medical university to hone their craft and have a teaching position
  • Candidate has tentatively accepted; well respected, interviewed by the whole team
  • Time is of the essence – have continuity to the reputation of the ME’s excellent work
  • Savings over time – contract pathologists are very expensive
  • Having a Chief, a deputy and two pathologists will stabilize the office and save money in the long run

 

Mr. May said that he thinks he can speak for all members that they understand the importance of the medical examiner’s office.  There is an understanding of the difficulty in filling these positions and those in the crime lab – a problem that has been faced for a while.  It is unfortunate that this is the second time in a row the the Health Dept. has come here for a process where they had some kind of funny expectations last time with respect to keeping positions.  Now here are again in a process that hasn’t been great.  He said that in five years in serving in various leadership capacities at the county, this is one of the worst processes he has seen.  He understands the circumstances and challenges; “the process has stunk”.  Mr. May said that he is disappointed that we are in this kind of situation today, because it was completely and entirely avoidable.  Mr. May said that this committee, and the Health Committee in particular, really needed to be fully engaged in this process.  This committee and the legislature could have been brought along, and he does not feel that they were.  He said “we were way out ahead of our skis in terms of aspects of the process.”  There has been trickled-in information, some of which he does not understand why we had to ask for it.  At of the end of the day yesterday everything that has been asked for has been provided; but, in speaking for himself, believes that we should have been way out ahead of it.  These are things that are normally expected in the process.  The administration knows that, but we didn’t get it.  Mr. May said that he is glad that we have focused the issue today through the agenda, because the fact that we were unfocused with that issue, and had we been working together, we would be farther along in this process and it would be a little easier.  He said that we were distracted by a broader attempt to address some things.  He knows that physicians make a lot of money, and there are some challenges with this market in attracting people, but it hurts the process by trying to accomplish too much at the beginning.

 

Mr. May said that this issue left the Health Committee without a resolution, which is contrary to how we like to do things here.  It puts this committee in a bit of a spot.  He said hen boiling it all down, where he gets a little stuck is that it seems like the money has already been spent.  He said “that is unusual, to say the least, within our process.  It’s not about money, but how our process has been compromised through this situation.”  Ms. Rooney said that Monday morning quarterbacking is very easy, but wished that Health Committee would have gone into executive session.  She said that they would have been able to talk more freely about the circumstances.  Mr. May replied “everyone at this table is elected 24-hours per day to serve their constituents in various capacities; we could have been talking in depth about the challenges you face and all of that anytime to keep this process moving smoothly and solving a real problem.”  He said that it put us in a dilemma today.  We have contracts with neighboring counties that have revenue streams attached to them; we have obligations; an accreditation that is very important to this county.  The accreditation is probably one of the drivers behind the fact that we have all of these external relationships to provide services to other counties. 

 

Mr. May said that there is an interim solution with a budget transfer that is more expensive, less effective, can’t get people to testify from a 3rd party vendor – a real issue that he spoke to the DA’s office about.  Even with the salary increases that are being talked about, this is a more effective solution.  At the end of the day, referring to the ME’s salary, this is probably something we need to do.  He said that he is still trying to process all of it -- thinks there are more things to discuss.  Mr. May reiterated regarding the process... “one of the worst since I’ve been here.”  He said that we have to solve a problem, understands the opportunities and problems we are facing, but the best he can do today is to abstain. 

 

Chair Cody agreed with Mr. May, and said that she would have liked to have seen it fully vetted by the Heath Committee.  Obviously, they didn’t take a vote because they didn’t have the information they needed to be comfortable with it.  She said she would have felt better if they would have had another chance to go back and vet this.  She said that members received additional information just yesterday and concurs with Mr. May and is still processing.  It is a big jump in salary without incremental increases over the years.  For the reasons Mr. May stated, she recognizes the urgency.

 

Mr. Rowley said that the ME salary for $250,000 is being driven by the candidate.  Ms. Rooney agreed and added that the market is also.  Mr. Rowley said if we are going to spend that kind of on an asset, which and ME is, he would like to know more about candidate.  At some point, he would like to go into executive session to talk about the candidate.  Ms. Mignano said that this is not the same kind of candidate pool that you are used to.  There are 1000 positions out there for pathologists and only 500 board certified pathologists across the nation, not including Hawaii and Alaska.  When talking about trying to get a candidate in, and what is being said is that this is a big jump in salary, which it is, the legislature was presented with what was on the NAME website.  NAME is the source that every pathologist, every medical student taking a pathology rotation, which can be a board certified fellow, goes to.  That’s where they know the jobs are.  What was presented to legislators is everything that is out there – there is not a lot of positions, given how many come out.  People retire; she noted that they have binders of articles from the last 3 years, across the nation, about “what are they going to do when their pathologist retires.”  She noted there is either an ME or a coroner system.  A coroner system can be done by anyone, but that is not what this community has wanted – want someone who can testify about the nature and the narrative of the death.  That’s what an MEO system is for and where you get name accredited.  Ms. Mignano said that when we showed you the cheap MEO positions we are still not at that level.  She referred to Fort Bend County, TX, where the salary is $197,000, but that is just to get them in the door and they can go up to anything because they pay Harris County, TX an unbelievable amount of money per autopsy -- projecting their population to go up past half a million.

 

Ms. Mignano noted that there is great opportunity in the future with Upstate to try to build more pathologists.  Recognizing that one out of every two positions is available to a candidate who has medical debt, they will go to where they want to go.  Not having an ME is a big challenge to get others to come into a facility. 

 

Chair Cody referred to the numbers provided, at the request of Chairman Burtis, for Erie and Monroe Counties.  They are lower, but it was qualified that you can’t compare them; she asked for clarification.  Ms. Rooney said that they are filled; if our chief ME was still here, she would not be at the legislature asking for a salary increase.  If suddenly tomorrow Eire or Monroe lost their ME, they would be doing exactly what we have done – going to NAME website and see what the current salary is.  She said that we won’t be privy to the information on how much their side relationships may be with the teaching hospitals in their communities.

 

Mr. Rowley asked what exactly was the staffing under the former medical examiner; how many pathologists; do we have them on staff now.  Ms. Rooney said that on the day he left, there was himself and one pathologist.  As recently as 2-3 years ago, there were 4 pathologists.  Ms. Mignano said it’s testament to the fact that they can go – we are a great training ground; we have great facility, great forensic staff.  The methodology that we use to do forensic investigations is about to be a national standard.  Pathologists get recruited away from us often; recent fellows came it, got trained, and had greater opportunities elsewhere. 

 

Mr. Rowley asked how long did we operate with an ME and a pathologist.  Ms. Mignano said “a full year.”  Mr. Rowley said there is no pathologist right now; everything is on contract.  Ms. Rooney agreed.  Mr. Rowley said that we have always had a deputy ME position, but have never filled it.  Ms. Rooney said that she was not sure that it was never filled, but not in recent past.  Dr. Stoppacher was hired as a deputy and stepped into chief when Dr. Jumbelic retired.  Mr. Rowley questioned why a deputy ME wasn’t hired.  Ms. Rooney said that she would like to go into executive session.

 

Mr. Rowley made a motion to enter into executive session to discuss a particular person, the employment history of that particular person, or the matters leading to the appointment of that person, seconded by Mrs. Ervin.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

A motion was made by Mr. Jordan, seconded by Mr. Ryan, to exit executive session and enter into regular session.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Chair Cody stated for the record that no motions or actions were taken during executive session.

 

Mr. Rowley asked why the title of pathologist is listed in the 2019 budget, but the proposal is moving to pathologist/physician.  Ms. Rooney said that it is because the new proposal is that the pathologist/physician position would be equivalent to any other doctor position in the the Health Department.  Right now there are no other physicians who are Onondaga County employees who would be at the physician level.  Dr. Gupta is the only other one; a couple of years ago the salary of the Heath Commissioner and ME were made identical.  The physician salary schedule is across the whole department; right now it is only for pathologists, but could someday have pathologist/physician positions.  In answer to Mr. Rowley, Ms. Rooney said that a pathologist is a physician, but it’s just what a pathologist is called in the Medical Examiner’s office.  Ms. Mignano said that if they wanted to move away from contract positions; only have one now, and wanted to create physician positions on the roster, that would be the grade level that it would be done at.  She explained that it is saying that all pathologists are physicians, but not all physicians are pathologists. 

 

Mr. Rowley said that the RESOLVED clause reallocates a salary grade for physicians from FL $45 per hour to grade 50, and asked for clarification.  Ms. Mignano said that there was a physician position on the roster, and believes that language exists in the structure.  Ms. Rooney said that it is a cleanup.  Mr. May asked to be provided with confirmation on it.

 

Mr. Rowley asked for statistics of the kind of work, i.e. autopsies or other services that the ME office provides.  Ms. Mignano provided information on the table (not supplied to Clerk).  Ms. Mignano will send it out to legislators.  It is tracked and provided to the Health Advisory Board.  It breaks down autopsies, non-medical, external, and a little bit of testimony.   

 

Chairman Knapp said that the opioid crisis has put a lot of strain on the office with all of the additional fatalities, and autopsies have to be done by law.  He referred to a federal or state proposed law with language regarding that if it is an obvious opioid overdose, then an autopsy wouldn’t be necessary.  All across the state the opioid crisis is overwhelming medical examiners’ offices. 

 

Mr. Rowley asked if no contractual costs are anticipated, if we were fully funded.  Ms. Mignano said that if there were four pathologists, contract pathologists would not be required unless there was a significant change, i.e. someone had a health issue.  She added that she wouldn’t say “never”, but it not be required – believe that with four pathologist, all of the needs of Onondaga County and contracted counties would be served, as well as local counties.

 

Chair Cody reiterated that she would have liked the Health Committee to have the information that we have now at their committee meeting.  No vote will be taken today and she offered that the Chairman of the Heath Committee may want to re-convene his committee to give them the opportunity of the benefit of what was heard today. 

 

A motion was made by Mrs. Ervin, seconded by Ms. Williams to adjourn the meeting at 11:22 a.m.  Passed unanimously; MOTION CARRIED.

 

Respectfully submitted,

signature

DEBORAH L. MATURO, Clerk

Onondaga County Legislature

 

 

 

 attendance

 

 

 

 

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